Exhuming Bob 32: Didn’t We Ramble Though, A Review Of The Bob Dylan Show, Portland Performance 10/21/14
October 22, 2014
Exhuming Bob 32
Didn’t We Ramble Though
A Review Of The Bob Dylan Show, Portland Performance 10/21/14
The steel is moanin’, the guitars are speakin’,
The piano plays a jelly roll.
The man on the drums is far from dumb,
The bassman he plays from his soul.
The tables are quakin’, and your nerves are shakin’
But you keep on beggin’ for more.
You’re havin’ your fun you lucky son of a gun
On that Honky Tonk hardwood floor.
Sung by the late great Johnny Horton
The Bob Dylan show dropped into town last night. And what a show it was. My first Dylan show, from reading all these reviews depicting the shows as atrocious my expectations were very low.
I can’t imagine what these critics are thinking. The Show was absolutely sensational. Dylan is one of the great Rock and Roll showmen. Beats anyone else I’ve ever seen.
I hope I can hit a stride here commensurate with the show and my muse doesn’t let me down. The venue, the Keller Auditorium, is a twenty-five hundred capacity house and it was filled. The stage is relatively big about sixty wide and fifty high. Bob and his musicians used the whole space like they had been performing there for a year. The lighting while minimal was dramatic, effective and beautiful putting one in a good mood. An aura was provided that brought one into the Secret Garden.
The electronic gear seemed to be artfully scattered haphazardly across the whole stage. The musicians wore red blazers while Bob came out in a white planter’s outfit, uniting the Templars with the old plantation down South. Jeb Stuart rides again.
The musicians appeared to be encamped among the gear with the lead and rhythm guitarists to the audience’s left. The drum stand was middle as is proper flanked by the bass player and finally a steel guitar player cum banjoist on the right end. Bob’s keyboard was forward and on a level with the steel. It was all very minimalist and effective. They filled the stage while being placed in perspective by the high fifty foot frame keeping everything human size. Dylan must have been studying performance art under Yoko.
It is a mistake to go to the concert to hear Dylan sing. He apparently learned to vocalize by singing along to Lou Reed’s Metal Machine Music. At first I thought it was a cabover with two cylinders not hitting coming up a mountain grade hauling a hundred thousand K in triple bottoms. Then I saw that it was Bob. The music is the thing; as a composer and conductor lies Bob’s genius.
The band was incredibly disciplined, everyone knew his role, fit tightly with the others and played their instruments without exhibitionism. The harmonics and spacing was incredible.
The drummer carried the band on his back. He was so sensational that like the Hindu elephant he could carry the world on his back. I mean, he had time in his hands, the money in his pocket and could walk the dog on a long leash. I haven’t seen anyone like that since Michael Shrieve. The guy was terrific, he couldn’t only play he looked good doing it. The bass player standing next to the kit kept the beat rolling forward. Bob understands the rhythm section. No amateurishness near.
While relatively unobtrusive the steel player was carrying a lot of the weight.
Now, the band doesn’t play any songs; what Bob has written is some sort of symphonic suite in several movements. The lead and rhythm play a succession of chord progressions loud; there is no melody as such. The music has a strong forward flow that sweeps along like the Mississippi in flood before it was channeled and diked.
The band set the crowd off from the first chord; it was all daylight from there. Like nearly everyone else I flipped to the ozone, shouting and howling, lost in the noise. Amazingly the audience responded differently to different chord progressions; sections would shoot from seats with a roar that competed with the amplification. It was like a huge sea of deep rollers rising and falling.
A wonderful crowd, best I’ve ever seen. Everyone looked good and went way into the show. There was no one not having the time of their life. Dylan was flattered and showed it, trying a little harder to deliver the goods.
His singing was irrelevant. Why he is charged with plagiarism is beyond me. I won’t say you couldn’t understand a word because I was able to snag a few while even getting a phrase or two- Tangled Up In Blue but he shouted that out in his normal voice.
If he was singing from his catalogue it was hardly noticeable although I did get the faint impression that one of them was She Belongs To Me. Either that or Love – Zero = No Limits, or something else, might have been The Star Spangled Banner. Didn’t matter, Bob had to do something to justify his being there. He had the band so tight they could have performed without him.
The band was the cake. The progressions were so powerful it was like Godzilla walking in rhythm. There were two sets and the first one was a power walk. Just unbelievable. If all Bob’s shows are like this one I can’t imagine what critics are belittling. Forget the singing, it’s some kind of frosting to add a little variety. So is Bob’s posturing. He struts around a little like the Lord of the Manse directing the slaves striking what I suppose are meant to be power poses.
The end of the first set leaves you exhausted but energized and hoarse. During the intermission most people didn’t leave their seats but in their high excitement there was a huge billowing roar rising up. I was in the first row, first balcony. It was a kindly roar, mellow even. Dylan’s fans are OK. No weirdos there regardless of Kinney’s book, The Dylanologists: Adventures In The Land Of Bob.
I was there with my wife and our friends Mark and Jenna, two old fans. On my left I sat next to a couple from Medicine Hat, Alberta who had driven down for the show. He was a wheat farmer with 600 acres. Using three John Deere combines he harvests all 600 acres in one day. Gives him a lot of leisure I suppose.
The second set was a little more frivolous lowering the energy level considerably. But, before you went to sleep he pepped it up a little ending on a power note.
I had heard that he doesn’t do encores but after a steady drum roll of applause for about ten minutes he and the band came back for not a one piece encore, but two, ending the show with a medium power progression while Bob mumbled the words to Blowing In The Wind apparently a very personal lyric. Ah, Hibbing.
By this time I had a firm grip on the situation paying attention to the band, but it is Bob’s band and I imagine that he has composed the music. As a composer he is no mean hand. I hesitate to say it but the music is at least as good as Beethoven although falling short of Mozart.
I don’t know how long the piece was but they must have given us five to ten minutes with the crowd and myself going wild. The woman four seats to my left had virtually taken leave of her senses screaming doing a wild gyration of a dance. Really spectacular.
OK, I confess it. I did some involuntary things myself. The band was really showing off their discipline and expertise. Now this is really spectacular, they were powering along then cut off simultaneously leaving a half beat silence before resuming at the same pace and volume. They did this three times in succession.
I sensed it coming on, now I’m not bragging because I wasn’t conscious of what I was doing, but in that brief half beat space was total silence. I shouted out a perfect rock and roll ‘hey’. I did it the second time slipping that hey into that narrow opening. Perfect timing on both our parts. I think the band was surprised by the first one then sort of amazed at the second one. Then consciousness came slipping back and I missed the third opening. It was still terrific.
As the encore drew to an end the cell phones came out and whole rows held them up to snap pictures. Endless tiny images shown back to up above. Bob came center stage to pose for the cameras while the band lined up behind him.
The band was terrific. Dylan was terrific, the whole show was breathtaking and invigorating. If you are being swayed by all the negative reviews, disregard them. Dylan’s show is a can’t miss situation. Carpe Diem! Good things don’t last forever.
June 23, 2011
Edie Sedgwick, Maid Of Constant Sorrow
In the interest of keeping things in perspective and since a huge part of the readership obviously didn’t experience the sixties, I’d like, if I may, to give a little additional background to understand what happened here. I hope I don’t offend by mixing in some of my own background, not merely from vanity, but so the reader will have some understanding of both my limitations and strengths in interpreting Edie, Andy and Dylan.
Nearly everything you read about the sixties today is written by former activists, usually Jewish, or dopers of one stripe or another. Shall we say they skew the period in the direction of their beliefs. Theirs was only the point of view of small minority. In fact, they seized the leadership playing a much different game than the majority who were busy getting on with their lives.
The period now coming under discussion is 1966-’68 which changed the direction of the sixties. In mid-’66 Dylan had his motorcycle accident and was effectively removed from the scene for the duration. When he resurfaced in the seventies it was in a much diminished role. The first Bob Dylan was dead and the second was busy being born. No matter what he’s done since then, compared to his mid-sixties trilogy it has had minimal impact.
Warhol reached his apogee in this period while he was shot by Vallerie Solanas in 1968 which changed the direction of his career when like Dylan he became a corporation while business affairs were managed by other men, most notably Fred Hughes.
Edie was heartbreakingly dragged through the mud in these years until her evil genius, Chuck Wein, connected her to the movie Ciao, Manhattan which was the most degrading, humiliating experience possible. It eventually killed her. All three of our participants then suffered life threatening experiences within two or three years of each other. Edie was the only one not to survive.
The sixties were tumultuous times; it was like walking around with a perpetual thunderstorm over your head. I was on the West Coast in the San Francisco Bay area till 1966 and at grad school at UOregon in Eugene from ‘66 to ‘68 and then in the record business for the rest of the period. I got my degree from California State College At Hayward now Cal State U. East Bay in 1966. It’s a long and irrelevant story but I entered Cal State in ‘64 taking enormous credit loads of up to 24 hours a quarter. You can do things like that when you’re young and not too bright. Hayward is just South of UC Berkeley. Cal State was a new school with a very small library so we were allowed library privileges at Berkeley of which I availed myself so I was around the Free Speech Movement scene but not of it. I was a first hand observer.
Once in Eugene in the fall of ‘66 things were getting in full swing in our own cultural revolution that would be joined to that of Chairman Mao in ‘68. I was entranced by the poster art work coming out of San Francisco eventually dropping out of grad school to sell posters and then phonograph records at which I was successful. Thus I was involved in the scene on an intimate basis from 1967 on.
While other generations were characterized by their literature our, the, generation was depicted by songwriters on phonograph records, thus records were central to the scene, don’t look for it in novels. The first efflorescence occurred in the US during the mid-fifties while going into an incubation period in England from then until the early sixties when in 1964 the Beatles, Stones and Animals among others provided the transition from fifties Rock n’ Roll to sixties rock. I don’t know how true it is but for me the revolution really got underway with the breathtaking first Doors LP in ‘66. The blues bands and the next wave of British bands provided the impetus to move things into the seventies where the creative impulse ended by 1974 although inertia carried things through until sometime in ‘78. Disco doesn’t count that was the beginning of an entire new ethic based in the homosexual revolution.
When Andy, then in his quest for money, moved into records by managing the Velvet Underground, probably in imitation of Dylan, he did so just before the music scene broke. New York bands were never that popular on the West Coast and the Velvets were no exception. Andy, however, was an innovative guy. Light shows were already news on the West Coast but Andy came up with a new multi-media formulation that blew our minds, as we used to say, while having a very lasting cultural effect.
In the Spring of ‘66 he rented a hall called the Dom in NYC. Using the Velvets as his house band and his light show he managed to overwhelm the hipsters of the Big Apple. He would have had a major success had he continued on but he was fixated on movies, wanting to do his Western put down, so the Factory crowd decamped for Tucson, Arizona, thinking to pick up the strand on their return.
While away Albert Grossman and Dylan leased the Dom from under Warhol and opened it as The Balloon Farm. Between taking Edie from Andy and then the ballroom I’m convinced that Dylan sealed his doom. I hope there aren’t too many people who think the rear wheel of his motorcycle locking was an accident. Once again, conclusive proof is lacking, but there are indications that Andy and the Factory crowd did it.
By late ‘66 Andy’s brief period in the spotlight was over. His creative burst had run its course and while afloat financially, there was not any great income in sight. Paul Morrissey had come on board as a filmmaker and his vision was more commercial than Andy’s but Andy was in charge so Paul had to bide his time waiting for his opportunity. At the same time a man from Houston by the name of Fred Hughes came on board who knew how to monetize Andy’s reputation and art skills and then, Bang! Andy was writhing on the floor in pain. One of those little zig-zags fate has in store for us sometimes. The sixties were over for Andy but the change in direction made his future in the seventies and eighties.
Now, let’s go back to ‘64 and take a look at one of the defining members of the decade I’ve slighted till now, Prof. Tim Leary. I’m convinced Leary was not in his right mind or, if he was, he shouldn’t have been there. By the time Timmy latched onto psychedelics they were pretty well established. LSD, discovered in 1938 by Hoffman and brought to prominence in 1943 was almost passe when Leary was turned on. Aldous Huxley had published his Doors Of Perception in 1954 and Heaven And Hell in ‘56, that celebrated the joys of mescaline.
When I was in high school maybe ‘54 the kids of Scarsdale were notorious for using marijuana, written up in Time if I remember right. Those were rich kids and by ‘56 our elite were very covertly using it. In the Navy aboard ship from ‘57 to ‘59 Bennies and other pills were prominent while the occasional heroin addict passed through. The Marines of Camp Pendleton were heavy into everything, barbiturates, mescaline, peyote buttons, LSD, you name it. For cryin’ out loud, Hollywood had been the drug capitol of the US for decades. One only has to read Raymond Chandler. There wasn’t anything they didn’t know. Cary Grant had been an old LSD hand for years before Leary, the apostle of acid, made it to town bearing the good news in 1960. He was received with some amusement.
A very amusing story Leary tells in his autobiography is that Marilyn Monroe fell to his lot at a party. They were actually in bed together. As you may know Marilyn knew more about drugs than any pharmacologist. Probably disgusted by Timmy’s ranting about LSD she handed him a pill and said take this. Timmy did then decided to get up to go the dresser for something. ‘Are you sure you want to do that?’ Marilyn asked. Timmy was. He took about two steps and seemed to sink through the carpet until only his nose was above the rug. He lay there inert all night while Marilyn laughed softly from the bed.
From his position on the faculty of Harvard Timmy was a very visible advocate of LSD hogging headlines in Time and other mags that were the envy of Andy. Tim was to amuse us with his antics all through the sixties. Now, all this stuff was happening very fast. It was impossible almost to keep up with the headlines let alone any indepth reporting or analysis. Besides there was no internet so all news was comparatively old news, perhaps weeks after the occurrence if you heard of it at all. Also it was impossible to be where it was happening unless it was happening where you were and then you didn’t know it was happening because you were in the middle of it. I happened on the Free Speech Movement because I was in school but I missed the SF scene going on at the same time because I couldn’t be in two places at once and keep up grades in the third place at the same time. New York was out of the question, London was across a wide, deep ocean, and LA hadn’t caught on yet. Thus, I was invited to the Kesey/Dead Trips Festival but passed on it. For various reasons I only caught the end of the Fillmore/Family Dog scene and then only fleetingly.
Even Morrison and the Doors who can claim to have been in the center could only have caught their small share however central it was. Nobody got it all. How could you be in Swinging London, New York, San Francisco and LA at the same time? Couldn’t be done although there were many who tried spending their time criss crossing the country from West to East and reversed and for all I know popping into London too trying to be jetsetters but they were merely vagrants peripheral to everything.
So marijuana, acid, speed and barbiturates or downers as they were called then made up the pharmacopeia. Amphetamines were obviously big in NYC from the early sixties and must have been in the West too but my first acquaintance with that was the Speed Kills buttons. Heroin was a danger drug for the addict type only. Cocaine came along in the seventies. At the time little or none of the marijuana crop was home grown. It came from Mexico and there are smuggling and pot running stories galore. At first the dealers were amateurs, boys and girls next door, but that slowly turned into the criminal professionals.
Andy’s crew were all what he called A-heads, but you may be sure they smoked and did booze too. It must have been uproarious in the early years but by ‘66 psychotic and physical reactions were beginning to slow the troops down. It was hard to keep up that pace.
Now, Edie when she came to New York in late ‘64 was a naif. Not many of us knew much better but she was a true naif, fresh from the farm, so to speak, while having had her brains addled by electro-shock treatment at Silver Hill Sanitarium. At Radcliffe-Harvard she had hung out with homosexual men gaining the reputation as a fag hag. Alright, I suppose, as she didn’t know how to handle herself around boys anyway. She came down to New York with the group of homosexuals that Andy called the Harvard kids with some distaste. She associated herself with her evil genius, Chuck Wein, who, as a homosexual, sought her destruction.
The Factory of Andy Warhol she entered was created in Andy’s image. In reading of it, I was never there, it comes across as a hell hole from which any reasonable person would have fled at first glance. Many did. Andy hurt a lot of people being of a sado-masochistic frame of mind. Outside his circle he was universally referred to as ‘that Warhol creep’ and yet events conspired with him to realize his perverted dreams and triumph over all.
Andy considered himself ugly and descriptions of him by others are unpleasant but whatever everyone and himself saw doesn’t show up so clearly in his pictures. He may not be the handsomest fellow around but he has a cherubic, pleasant look that I don’t find unattractive. But, because of this feeling he surrounded himself with beautiful people. Fred Hughes his business manager was quite handsome. Morrissey was OK, Malanga had his moments, Edie was considered a knockout, although I can’t see it, and the other women he associated with were quite attractive.
And then, as a little immigrant boy who wasn’t acceptable to mainliners of Pittsburgh Andy was especially pleased to have society women attached to him and especially the titled or rich English girls. Edie fit in as a beauty, as Andy called her then, and as an old line New York society girl. The combination was almost too tantalizing for this lifetime homosexual. Andy said Edie was as close to love with a woman that he ever got. He even took her home to meet mom. Edie apparently missed the import of that.
Andy has been blamed for making an A-head out of Edie. Once she tasted amphetamines it is clear that there was no stopping her. In truth the Factory was no place for her and Chuck Wein who introduced her into it must have known that. Still, as Dylan sang, there’s something going on here and you don’t know what it is, do you? Most people didn’t including Dylan, and I certainly was out of my depth. It was disconcerting metaphorically to step on what was once solid ground to feel it giving beneath your feet.
Actually there were several revolutions going on which would result in massive social changes. Those of us firmly grounded could only see the so-called change as a rising tide of insanity. Aided by drugs these revolutionists became totally dissociated from reality. Drugs alone cause a withdrawal into an inner fantasy world of wishful thinking. The external world appears as something that wishful thinking can manipulate to one’s desires in some magical way. When the two got really out of sync as they inevitably must you ended up in Bellevue psychiatric wards as happened to a heavy user like Edie many times while most of Warhol’s crew checked in at least once.
Andy, who used these people for entertainment and self-aggrandizement, provided a hospitable retreat or club house where the cognitive dissociation wasn’t quite so apparent or, at least, normal. The scene must have been incoherent. A reading of Warhol’s so-called novel, ‘a’, shows that by 1966 his crew was indeed incoherent. Ostensibly a tape recording of Ondine’s conversation over twenty-four hours, whose conversation Andy found engaging, the tapes show Ondine unable to complete a sentence along with Rotten Rita and the rest of the crew including Edie.
Further the whole bunch were absolute thieves. In Edie’s decline through sixty-six they walked into her apartment and chose their favorites from her collection of fur coats along with anything else of value. In her demented state all she could say is that everyone was wearing her coats. One wonders how much internal anguish there was as she knew there was nothing she could do about it.
At the same time Andy was a leader of the Homosexual and Underman revolutions. Perhaps nobody knew what was going on but Warhol, Rotten and others were working for homosexual liberation which they achieved with the Stonewall Riot of 1969.
New York was unique in that for decades homosexuals from the South and Midwest flowed into New York each year in a great internal migration. The chief destination was the Village. Christopher Street was the main fag drag. The Stonewall Tavern was on Christopher. Why the cops would disturb the lads in their own colony is beyond me, but they did and then gave up without a fight.
Perhaps the most astounding revolution of all was that of the Undermen. Untermensch in German. While Warhol’s crew was a prime example of the Other Half rising to control the direction of society, the main impetus seems to have been the West Coast, San Francisco and Haight-Ashbury, specifically the Hippies. It was really there that the poverty look took hold, torn, faded jeans and whatever. LA never really went for it but it spread up the coast to Eugene, Portland and Seattle. The Sorority and Fraternity look went out the window with millionaire’s kids posing as the down and out.
I would imagine a naïve thing like Edie got caught up in the so-called sexual revolution too. We’re not talking Feminist Movement here but the sexual aspect of the Communist Revolution in which women are common property to be had anytime or anyplace by whoever. The Pill that came along in 1960 really facilitated the change in sexual mores. Nothing exemplified that more than the mini-skirt. So you’ve got drugs, the Pill, the Mini Skirt and the Ideology. The world was not so slowly turning upside down.
All these revolutions might have gotten not too far but they were all collected and subsumed under the directing force of the Communist Revolution under the leadership of Chairman Mao and the Chinese Party. The money really flowed in after 1968. Driving the whole thing and what made the turmoil possible was the Viet Nam War. It served the Communist cause more than the American as while taking a beating in Viet Nam the Communists subverted the United States. Strangely Viet Nam had no effect on Warhol at all. His disaster paintings ignored Viet Nam while a couple napalm drops would have made a terrific topic.
In the early days of the war it was filmed like a reality TV show with the daily haps relayed on TV to the US. The reality of napalm drops while our soldiers cheered and howled while a couple dozen Vietnamese where incinerated was too much for the entertainment starved public to take. I sure couldn’t handle it. The films were quickly removed. The reality of war is a private thing between the armies, not quite like the Super Bowl.
I don’t recall a single mention of Viet Nam in Andy’s Diaries, Philosophy From A To B or ‘a’. The war appears in none of the biographies or auto-biographies or even novels written by various denizens of the Factory. Rather strange, but then I can recall no references to it in Dylan’s songs either.
The Communist Revolution connection developed when John and Yoko arrived in NYC in 1971. The two of them were clearly involved in revolutionary activities linking various art and entertainment figures with them including, Dylan, Warhol, David Bowie and others. What exactly they were doing isn’t clear to me yet. Yoko was and is on some Feminist rag.
So, in 1966 while an apparent apex for Warhol, his world was actually coming apart while Edie’s was descending like a Stuka dive bomber.
The period from December ‘65 to Easter of ‘66 must have been traumatic for a crazed and confused A-head like Edie. She sacrificed her position with Andy, seduced by the fallacious promises of Dylan and Grossman who certainly had no plans to make a movie, and if they did, to put Edie in it.
Warhol had all the sadistic cruelty characteristic of homosexuals that he turned on to the distraught girl. Edie must have been thoroughly crushed when Dylan rejected her love while passing her on to Neuwirth. Edie was not at her wit’s end with no money, cut off by her parents who objected to this life style, while having no means to make money to support the station in life she had seemingly attained. Both Dylan and Warhol abandoned her after accepting her largesse for several months. Warhol is especially reprehensible. Dylan sure is a close second.
Her heavy dependence on amphetamines was literally eating away her brain, her body and her personality.
I really can’t believe that Edie loved Neuwirth as she claimed. I don’t think either was capable of love. Yet, she abandoned her body to him claiming she could make love for forty-eight hours straight but crashed whenever he left her. That is a sign of despair and fear. I can only imagine the horror she felt when she looked into the future and saw only a blank wall. As Dylan was to sing of her: Time will tell just who has fell and who’s been left behind.
Perhaps the cruelest trick of all was played on Edie by Dylan, Grossman and Neuwirth at the Easter Parade of 1966 when Neuwirth filmed the promised movie.
In a November issue of Life Magazine in 1965 Edie had been photographed standing on top of a toy leather rhinoceros about two feet high and three feet long, popular at the time. Whether the three of them, Grossman, Dylan and Neuwirth, put their heads together to come up with this or Dylan brainstormed it by himself, Neuwirth persuaded Edie to pull the rhino down Fifth Avenue as the parade progressed, filming as they went. Then Bobby tied the rhino to a parking meter and persuaded a passing cop to write Edie a ticket. Thus Grossman and Dylan fulfilled their obligation to put Edie in a movie while mocking her cruelly. Those guys had a reputation for cruel put downs. They live up to it here.
It was just after Easter that Warhol opened the Dom to stage his Exploding Plastic Inevitable. The reports we got of it on the West Coast made it sound absolutely astounding. If any one thing characterized the sixties I would have to say it was the Exploding Plastic Inevitable. It brought everything the era valued together. As usual with Warhol he couldn’t resist turning it into a sado-masochistic experience. The chaos must have been extraordinary. One can imagine the scene with dope peddlers trying to push their drugs on you, the lights flashing, strobing and pulsing, the howling music, the bodies bumping against each other, Malanga doing his whip dance, Edie bopping around the stage with her odd skip and step. They talk about the Velvet Underground being loud but they must mean for the times. Blue Cheer with its wall of Marshalls was just around the corner while the electronics improved almost daily until the sound passed the limits of endurance. Created a whole generation of deaf Beethovens. Musicians literally without ears.
I actually promoted the Underground once in either ‘68 ot ‘69, might have been pre-Blue Cheer. BC’s main claim to fame was that they were the first mega blasters, loudest band alive for their brief moment. Sort of a Great Divide in Rock music.
Things were still building but it wasn’t that the Velvets were that loud; they were just super strange. Reed was the original one-note man, he played it over and over fast. Sterling was there but he must have been background noise because I don’t remember much of an effect there. Whatever Cale was doing passed over my head but it must have been some kind of La Monte Young dynamo hum, all the songs were. I was most fascinated by Mo on drum. Yeah, right, drum, in the singular. She had a six inch deep tom with an under slung mallet. The mallet hammered away at the bottom skin while Mo pounded the upper skin with the sticks. In keeping with the dynamo hum she never varied the beat once but she was right on time just in case time was important. Quite an experience. You shoulda been there, and paid at the door. I wouldn’t have lost as much money.
Andy made a bundle in the month long run and then he made what would have been the mistake of his life in leaving for Arizona, or would have been if he hadn’t been shot. While he was out of it Hughes and Morrissey put together the means to put Andy over the top.
Chaper 15 follows.
November 30, 2010
A week or so after Philadelphia I got a real lesson in show business and Pop style. Just when you think you’re getting famous, somebody comes along and makes you look like a warm up act for amateur night. Pope Paul VI, talk about advance PR- I mean, for centuries.Definitely the most Pop public appearance tour of the sixties was that visit of the Pope to New York City. He did it all in one day- October, 15, 1965. It was the most well-planned media covered personal appearance in religious (and probably show business) history. “Never Before in This Country! One Day Only! The Pope in New York City!”The funny thing for us, of course, was that Ondine was known in our crowd as “the Pope,” and one of his most famous routines was “giving the papal bull.”The (real) Pope and his entourage of aides, press and photographers left Rome early that morning on an Alitalia DC-8. Eight hours and twenty minutes later, they got off the plane at Kennedy with the Pope’s shiny robes blowing in the wind. They drove in a motorcade through Queens- the streets were lined with people- through Harlem crowds, and then down to the jammed- for blocks St. Patrick’s Cathedral area in the Fifties- where the Pope seemed to want to go out in “the audience” but you could see his aides talking him out of it. After all the stuff in the cathedral he ran down the street to the Waldorf-Astoria where President Johnson was waiting. They exchanged gifts and talked for a little under an hour about world troubles. Then it was over to address the UN General Assembly (essentially he said, “Peace, disarmament and no birth control”) out to Yankee Stadium to say Mass in front of ninety thousand people, over to the closing World’s Fair to see Michelangelo’s Pieta in its Pop context before it went back to the Vatican, and back out to Kennedy and onto a TWA plane, saying, when the reporters asked him what he liked best about New York, “Tutti Buoni” (Everything is good”) which was the Pop philosophy exactly. He was back in Rome that same night. To do that much in that short a time with that kind of style- I can’t imagine anything more Pop than that.
I’d dreamt about Billy Name, that he was living under the stairs of my house and doing sommersaults and everything was very colorful. It was so weird, because his friends sort of invaded my house and were acting crazy in colorful costumes and jumping up and down having so much fun and they took over, they took over my life. It was so weird. It was like clowns.Everybody was a clown in a funny way, and they were just living there without letting me know, they’d come out in the morning when I wasn’t there and they’d have a lot of fun and then they’d go back and live in the closet.
I was invited to speak at the annual banquet of the New York Society For Clinical Psychiatry by the doctor who was chairman of the event. I told him I’d be glad to ‘speak’ if I could do it though movies, that I’d show Harlot and Henry Geldzahler and he said fine. Then when I met the Velvets I decided that I wanted to speak with them instead, and he said fine to that too.So one evening in the middle of January everybody in the Factory went over to the Delmonico Hotel where the banquet was taking place. We got there just as it just was starting. There were about three hundred pychiatrists and their mates and dates- and all they’d been told was that they were going to see movies after dinner. The second the main course was served, the Velvets started to blast and Nico started to wail. Gerard and Edie jumped up on the stage and started dancing, and the doors flew open and Jonas Mekas and Barbara Rudin with her crew of people with cameras and bright lights came storming into the room and rushing over to the psychiatrists asking them questions like:‘What does her vagina feel like?’‘Is his penis big enough?’‘Do you eat her out? Why are you getting embarrassed? You’re a psychiatrist; you’re not supposed to get embarrassed!Edie had come with Bobby Neuwirth. While the crews filmed and Nico sang her Dylan song, (I’ll Keep It With Mine) Gerard noticed (and he told me this later) that Edie was trying to sing, too, but even in that incredible din, it was obvious she didn’t have a voice. He always looked back to that night as the last she ever went out with us in public, except for a party here and there. He thought she’d felt upstaged that night, that she’d realized that Nico was the new girl in town.Edie and Nico were so different, there was no good reason to compare them, really. Nico was so cool, and Edie was so bubbly. But the sad thing was, Edie was taking a lot of heavy drugs, and she was getting vaguer and vaguer. Her society lady attitude toward pills had changed to an addict attitude. Some of her good friends tried to help her, but she couldn’t listen to them. She said she wanted a “career” and that she’d get one since Grossman was managing her. But how can you have a career when you don’t have the discipline to work at anything?Gerard had noticed how lost Edie looked at that psychiatrists’ banquet, but I can’t say I noticed; I was too busy watching the psychiatrists. They were really upset and some of them started to leave, the ladies in their long dresses and the men in their black ties. As if the music- the feedback actually- that the Velvets were playing wasn’t enough to drive them out, the movie lights were blinding them and the questions were making them turn red and stutter because the kids wouldn’t let up, they just kept asking for more. And Gerard did his notorious whip dance. I loved it all.http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iNwp4nNTeJg Clip of performance.
November 20, 2010
Edie Sedgwick: Maid Of Constant Sorrow
The Pillow That We Dreamed On
While this is a history it is also a history I lived through. Thus, while history from a distance in time loses much detail it gains in perspective. While these events were transpiring in New York an interpretation of them was being dispersed throughout the country by magazines. While I have no first hand knowledge of the scene in New York my reality at the time was formed by magazine reports. I considered myself pretty well informed from those magazines and in an intra-social sense I guess I was although that only made me less superficial than some others.
The sixties was a fabulous time for magazines. Endless specialized titles came and went after only a few issues, or even a single issue. One of my favorites was the long lasting Horizon, a hard cover quarterly boasting a whole hundred thousand subscribers. Obviously it was for the fortunate few. Of the big bombers chief of all was Time-Life. The two magazines were probably the backbone of American culture during the fifties and sixties. Time lost its credibility during the sixties.
Time was founded by Henry and Clair Booth Luce in 1923. By the fifties it was not only a money machine but gave the Luces a position from which they could actually direct the course of American culture. A heady responsibility. The Luce’s always claimed to be Conservatives but their publications always seemed to have a decidedly leftward bend.
For me the 60s was a most exciting intellectual period. Things were moving fast and generally opening up the American mind. Time-Life publications, all those mail order books. I love mail order. I especially love getting books through the mail. The sixties was my time. Horizon had annual volumes I cherish. Time-Life published a series of paperbacks, actually linoleum like covers, called the Time-Life Library, sent out four titles a quarter, complete set of 108. I completed it. They did delete one title replacing it with another that I don’t have.
However the titles seemed to further a Left agenda. Biographies of Marx and others with the explanation that it was important to know how the enemy thought. True enough, I’m sure, and I bought it at the time but they issued precious little concerning other political angles. I soured on Time-Life as it went.
I also discontinued subscribing to Time sometime in the mid-sixties although it was impossible to stop reading the magazine as there was always a copy lying around somewhere. I became revolted when I read a marvelous piece describing Howard Hughes exit from Las Vegas. It was an astonishing eye witness piece. Then we learned that the whole account was fiction; it never happened. Not only inaccurate but it never happened. They just made it up. That ended my fascination with Time. Still it was where I continued to get most of my information while it had formed my mind for over a decade.
The magazines- Time, Life- were where I got my information on the NYC art scene. Time was especially attentive to it. Pop Art was covered pretty extensively by both magazines. A complete collection of both Time and Life is available on line for reference.
On the West Coast where I was, then, my personal knowledge of Warhol and the art scene pretty much came from Time-Life as did that of most others. Probably not that many were actually interested. Time was a big weekly magazine, how much of it could you actually read. One looked at the magnitude of the weekend NYTimes, sniffed, and just walked away. Who could even begin to read it.
When Edie hooked up with Warhol she gained a national recognition second to none for a nonentity, quite astounding in retrospect.
In August of ‘65 she and Warhol received a good write up in the Arts section of Time while as late as November she received a very nice photo essay in Life. She hadn’t even done anything but hang out with Warhol. Judging from what I read on the internet these articles impressed a number of people giving Edie a national reputation, at least in some circles. This is quite startling because she was only a cute girl, nothing more. She could never have achieved this without her association with Warhol. And she was in a position to turn her allure and fame to account.
Warhol was not going to pay her for the movies. His position was that he had given her this fame so that it was her responsibility to do something with it. There were things she could have done to retrieve her fortunes. Supposedly Chuck Wein was on the lookout to make her into something. He was useless. He should have given his brain an enema and looked at things more clearly. There were things that could have been attempted. It wouldn’t have been impossible for her to set up an advice column such as Edie Says, or What Would Edie Do. My god, she was in NYC. The idea could have been sold to the NYTimes and from there perhaps syndicated. She wouldn’t even have had to do anything but collect the money. Others could have handled everything.
Edie had already modeled so she was in Fashion. So…a line called Edie Sedgwick Party Clothes, Casual Fashion, you name it. Heck, Warhol should have been on the ball and taken his cut, led the way, instead of stupidly taking Ondine’s chat for a novel called ‘a’. Who bought it?
Having raised Edie then to near iconic status within just a few months Warhol, Wein and Edie let the opportunity of a life time slip through their hands. Perhaps it was the drugs.
Hatred In His Heart
At the beginning of May Dylan left for a tour of England. At the same time Warhol took Edie along with Gerard Malanga and Chuck Wein for a gallery show in Paris. Warhol, Edie and Dylan were in Europe at the same time. Whether this influenced Dylan’s rage or not isn’t known but in June shortly after his return he began to vent his rage as he began the composition of Like A Rolling Stone.
Now, Edie’s brother Jonathon told a story he says he got from Edie that she was impregnated by Dylan and carried his baby. There is no time frame for this story. According to Jonathon Edie was determined to have Dylan’s child. As she told it it took four men to hold her down for the abortion to be performed. If true, this is an interesting situation. For one thing abortions were illegal at the time, so a rogue doctor was required. Edie says that she was adamant about having the baby so that she would have had to have been either lured to the doctor or essentially kidnapped. If she resisted and four men, who happened to be in attendance, were required to subdue her then we have a crime of some magnitude.
Bear in mind that all the alleged participants are whacked out of their minds on amphetamines so no one is thinking clearly. At any event Dylan was committed to marry Sara if this is before the wedding or married to her if after. Edie is a celebrity of some distinction who in all likelihood would tell everyone it was Dylan’s love child. What effect this might have on Sara can’t be known but it might possibly have disturbed Dylan’s plans. If he’s like the rest of us he would have held Edie responsible for getting pregnant.
The gist of it is Jonathon Sedgwick says Edie told him the story. It is a possibility, after all if you’re having sex with somebody as she undoubtedly was with Dylan, the possibility of pregnancy is there. But that’s in the background.
During the summer while Dylan stewed Edie and Andy’s star was rising. New York dailies ran stories on the pair that told of Edie drawing Andy into uptown society; and then in late November Life ran its photo essay on Edie. Let’s let Andy recap the period as he told it in his autobiography Popism, recalled in 1980, p. 107:
(At the party) There were a few guys in the latest velvets and silk shirts, but not too many- the boys were still mostly in blue jeans and button-down shirts. Edie brought Bob Dylan to the party and they huddled by themselves over in a corner. Dylan was spending a lot of time then up at his manager Al Grossman’s place near Woodstock, and Edie was somehow involved with Grossman too- she said he was going to manage her career.
I’d met Dylan through the MacDougal Street/Kettle Of Fish/Café Rienzi/Hip Bagel/ Café Figaro scene, which Danny Fields claims got started when he and Donald Lyons saw Eric Andersen, they went up and asked if he wanted to be in an Andy Warhol movie. “How many times did we all use that one?” Danny laughed. And after that Eric got interested in Edie and suddenly we were all around the Village together. But I think Edie actually knew Dylan because of Bobby Neuwirth. Bobby was a painter who originally started singing and guitar playing up in Cambridge just to make money to paint with, he told me once. Then he hooked up with Dylan and became part of that group- he was something like Dylan’s road manager-confidant. And Bobby was a friend of Edie’s.
At Sam’s party Dylan was in blue jeans and high-heeled boots and a sports jacket, and his hair was sort of long. He had deep circles under his eyes, and even when he was standing he was all hunched in. He was around twenty-four then and the kids were all just starting to talk and act and dress and swagger like he did. But not many people except Dylan could ever pull that anti-act off- and if he wasn’t in the right mood, he couldn’t either. He was already slightly flashy when I met him, definitely not folksy anymore- I mean, he was wearing satin polka-dot shirts. He’d released Bringing It All Back Home, so he’d already started his rock sound at this point, but he hadn’t played the Newport Folk Festival yet, or Forest Hills, the places where the old-style folk people booed him for going electric, but where the kids started getting really crazy for him. This was just before “Like A Rolling Stone” came out. I liked Dylan, the way he’d created a brilliant new style. He didn’t spend his career doing homage to the past, he had to do things his own way, and that was just what I respected. I even gave him one of my silver Elvis paintings in the days when he was first around. Later on, though, I got paranoid when I heard rumors that he had used the Elvis as a dart board up in the country. When I’d ask, “Why would he do that.” I’d invariably get hearsay answers like “I hear he feels you destroyed Edie,” or “Listen to ‘Like A Rolling Stone’- I think you’re the ‘diplomat on the chrome horse’, man.” I didn’t know exactly what they meant by that- I never listened much to the words of songs- but I got the tenor of what people were saying- that Dylan didn’t like me, that he blamed me for Edie’s drugs.
So it is quite clear from Andy’s recollection that he had known Dylan from the early Spring of ‘65 and that Edie was quite clearly dating him. Whether the pregnancy story comes from this time would be an interesting question. After the release of Highway 61 Revisited Dylan conceived a plan to take Edie away from Andy. It would seem quite clear from the bags under Dylan’s eyes that he was no stranger to drugs.
Perhaps the August Time article on Andy and Edie was the high point of their relationship although the October art exhibit at UPennsylvania was still to come. That show was astonishing in that Warhol was treated like a rock star with apparently the same crowd attending. Of course, Andy’s pal Sam Green had masterfully whipped up enthusiasm with his promotion of the show preceding it by several weeks. The show was probably the first time an artist received such adulation.
Though Andy was enough of a rage that a big crowd would come out for him. I was in attendance at the UOregon lecture in Fall ’67 when Allen Midgette impersonated him and a crowd of about 1500 paid to see him. It isn’t true that Midgette’s impersonation was that good.
I was standing at the end of the line waiting to enter when Midgette and Morrissey were brought in to the elevator just behind me. The guy in front of me asked if that was him.
I was watching Midgette who was a midget, little skinny short guy. There was a superficial resemblance but he seemed too short and he wasn’t wearing a wig. I said, ‘It looks like him but I don’t think it is.’ Midgette raised his eyebrows while Morrissey looked like the jig was up but the admins ignored me.
During the so-called lecture there were several groups of us dispersed throughout the audience loudly debating the issue. They got away with it but later the school learned they had been pranked and demanded their money back. I always thought that was rude. What did they expect of Warhol. He had a reputation. Didn’t the administration read Time?
In September of ‘65 Dylan began to court Edie with promises, one believes, of a good income from movies, recording or such. One is amazed that geniuses like Dylan, Grossman and Neuwirth couldn’t come up with something more inventive to promote Edie.
Edie was torn between two lovers, Andy and Bob. It must have been quite head turning to be the object of contention between the number one celebrity artist of the time and one of the most famous recording and performing acts at the same time as receiving national exposure in Time and Life.
Warhol, even though a homosexual, said that he was as close to in love with Edie as he had been with any other person in his life, he even took her home to meet his mother. Mrs. Warhola who had been urging her son to marry would certainly have taken Edie’s appearance as an indication that Andy was serious about her.
Having committed himself even that far would mean that her receptiveness to Dylan was a crushing rejection of himself as, say, a male object, while her abscontsion to Dylan’s camp would be a traitorous act. Unforgivable in his eyes.
Thus as Edie wavered between Dylan and Andy her life at the Factory became untenable. Andy quietly brought in other superstars including Dylan’s old flame, Nico. Whether conscious of it or not Andy was displacing Edie. She was mocked and reviled. While this was happening at the Factory Edie was evidently taken to Woodstock where Albert Grossman was talking contract to her as her manager. Dylan had had his May gig in England filmed although it would be a while before it was released. There was talk of another film of which Edie would have the starring role. That film apparently wasn’t made for several decades until Dylan finally got it together to make Masked And Anonymous. Perhaps the blond female lead was meant to remind the viewer of Edie.
So, rejected by her family who disapproved of her modeling as well as scorning her association with Warhol, desperately in need of money Edie was in an agonizing mental dilemma. Remember that by this time she was a national figure having appeared in Time and even as her position disintegrated featured in Life, yet she had no money to back her celebrity status. She couldn’t participate in the social life.
We don’t know what Dylan was promising her personally whether he hinted at marriage or stated it but it seems clear from the evidence of One Of Us Must Know (Sooner Or Later) and Most Likely You Go Your Way And I’ll Go Mine that Edie believed Dylan was serious about her.
Dylan married Sara in November of ‘65 secretly but how to keep a secret. Warhol learned of the marriage tauntingly informing Edie of it in December. Edie was incredulous. It follows, and can’t be otherwise, that she confronted Dylan with the alleged fact. This was undoubtedly a moment of triumph for Dylan as he could now reject Edie as he believed she had rejected him in March.
One can imagine Edie demanding of Dylan whether he was with her or Sara. The intense mocking derision of Sooner Or Later when Dylan sings: I couldn’t believe what I did hear- was I leaving with you or her?
At that time Edie’s game was up. Warhol had destroyed her reputation; she could no longer get modeling jobs; she was broke with no hope of a good encore. With a loud sneer Dylan passed her to his sidekick, Bobby Neuwirth then a song to commemorate it: She’s Your Lover Now.
Down The Trail Of Broken Hearts
The motivations of the actors are difficult to determine. However that insofar as any actions relate to the others than the actions of any of the others are interrelated. Thus Andy had Edie and wished to keep her as she was as close to love as he ever came. Perhaps he realized that he would need money to do so while perhaps his various activities from the Factory to filmmaking were keeping him financially strapped so that even if he wished to he couldn’t pay Edie. He had expenses.
Of course today an authenticated Warhol may go for millions up to the one hundred millions paid for the Eight Elvises picture but at the time you could have scooped up several paintings for under ten thousand dollars that might have been worth tens of millions twenty to thirty years on.
Dylan is ridiculed for trading his Presley taken from Warhol for a sofa but at the time that wasn’t necessarily a bad deal depending on the sofa. Warhol would give his actors the choice between a painting and a hundred dollars cash. The Factoryites elected the cash over the picture. So, it’s not like Warhol could just sell a painting anytime he needed to raise the ready. His question was how to raise some cash, he had overhead.
His adversaries were Dylan and Albert Grossman, one a recording artist the other a manager both swimming in cash. There seemed like a pot of gold at the end of that particular rainbow. Andy thought about it and came up with what he thought was a winning formula, and it actually was but he let it slip away.
Taking his cue from Bobby and Albert then Andy decided to manage a band. He also conceived at the same time an artistic light show to create an even more unique and exciting ambience, The Exploding Plastic Inevitable. When the student is ready the teacher will appear. And so it was. Andy’s scouts went looking for a band and came back with a group called the Warlocks who were renamed The Velvet Underground. An SM band extraordinaire whose chief songs were Heroin and Waiting For My Man. Only Andy could have shouted Eureka! at such a find.
The band came straight out of the avant garde. The chief instrumentalist, John Cale, had belonged to the John Cage/La Monte Young musical circle. The ostensible leader, Lou Reed, another survivor of electro-shock therapy, not much of a musician, was the group’s songwriter and lead singer. Between Warhol, the Factory hands and the Velvets they were a Happening of the first order.
Andy now had his band and his concept but no venue. No way to present the package for popular consumption. But, that too appeared when someone suggested a hall called the Dom. Andy rented the hall but, here’s the catch, he didn’t lease it. He cautiously wanted to try it out first. The trial was a major success, wowing hip New York while also bringing in an astonishing amount of cash for a three or four week run. Should have been a hint.
Now, Andy negotiated a recording contract for the Velvet Underground and the band actually recorded its SM anthems Heroin and Waiting For My Man. Remember the Velvets had no history and horrible songs but Andy’s influence was so great this unknown band was given a recording contract. Not so bad. Of course the record wasn’t released until 1967 but it fell flat as one would have expected with an eighteen minute song called Heroin. Also the record was released as Andy Warhol Presents The Velvet Underground. Andy’s credibility wasn’t too great outside NYC and I, for one, looked at the record as a probable joke, especially as the cover was a peel away banana. After listening to the record I knew it was a joke.
A couple years earlier Dylan had been in Greece where he met a German woman going by the name of Nico. They apparently had a short fling and he wrote the song I’ll Keep It With Mine for her. Time passes and paths meander. Having passed through London Nico showed up in New York City at this time where, as chance would have it, she hooked up with Warhol and became a Factory girl. Andy in his usual way foisted her on the Velvets as a chanteuse, Nico And The Velvet Underground, did I mention that before? So, not only did one ask what the hell was a velvet underground but who the hell was Nico? We knew who Andy Warhol was. And how.
Dylan undoubtedly thought of Nico as his, thus he showed up in Warhol’s scene to push songs on Nico with the intent no doubt to woo her away as he had done Edie. The contest between Andy, Bobby and Albert was heating up.
I think it probably came to a head over the Dom. Andy and the Velvets left for a gig in LA and when they returned they attempted to resume their shows at the Dom. Lo and behold they found that Albert Grossman had leased the venue from under them. They had the winning formula but once again no venue. Albert called his place something stupid like The Balloon Farm but under different management it became The Electric Circus. Andy was offered the light show but didn’t take it, but by then light show paraphenalia was being manufactured as a commercial product.
From my point of view the most astonishing and impressive thing Andy ever did was the Exploding Plastic Inevitable. It had a long lasting effect. Of course by this time the whole light show paraphernalia had turned into an industry and anyone could do it.
Toward the end of ‘65 Edie had become peripheral to both Andy and Dylan.
Chapters 9,10,11 and 12 are now up on one post.
The Last Days Of John Lennon
Review by R.E. Prindle
How The Fifties Became The Sixties
The sixties seem to have erupted by some process of autogenesis. They seem to be a decade unrelated to the fifties but nothing could be further from the truth. The sixties were very carefully structured in the fifties, that supposedly somnolent decade. The fifties themselves evolved from the fantasy notion of The United States Of America- the American Dream. In truth there had never been a united America and an American Dream only in the mind of certain immigrants who believed they had reached the Promised Land of their dreams. The country has always been one of conflict with conflicting peoples. There was no mythological age as in distant times so no mythopoeic era preceded the scientific one. America was born in science.
The warfare against the aboriginal peoples to clear the land for the European invaders created the first layer of conflict. The second layer of conflict was the importation of Africans as slave labor. This created a second irreconcilable conflict that erupted in 1954 when the Black revolution began in earnest and began to accelerate in the sixties. This was what Eric Foner described as America’s unfinished revolution in his writings.
Each succeeding group of immigrants created its own friction but assimilation did go on with most peoples. In the fifties the sort of ethnic identities in song and humor that makes the talkies of the thirties now seem quaint was coun
teracted. While visibly subdued ethnicism simmered below the surface until the sixties when it burst out again in a new form and triumphed.
I am unable to tell the education received in schools of the twenties and thirties but by the time I was in high school from 1953-56 the whole concept of revolutiuon was romanticized and this continued through my college years in the sixties. It was iterated over and over again that revolution was an absolute virtue. To be revolutionary was to be a person in full. Kids in the walls ran around saying are you revolutionary, I’m revolutionary. Thus they embraced any idea that was the opposite of the status quo. This notion of revolution was combined with the notion of the absolute virtue of being an American. This would result in Kennedy’s idiotic Peace Corps begun in the sixties. Raw American youths were supposed to be able to tell the less favored peoples how to run their lives. The war in Europe was treated as a crusade against Germans, a war of absolute black and white, no shades of grey. I truly believed that no American in either the European or Pacific war ever committed an act of wanton brutality no matter what the provocation. I would have dismissed out of hand that as a matter of policy millions of Germans were exposed to Winter weather in the years following the war unprotected while being denied any kind of nourishment and, yet, it was so. In subsequent years this would have been described as ‘American’ brutality while in fact it was instigated by revolutionary American Jews seeking vengeance. Americanism was not involved.
At the same time the new medium of television exposed us to unprecedented doses of propaganda disguised as the truth, doses far in excess of anything the hated Nazis devised. Chief among those TV shows was a cartoon called Crusader Rabbit. Now, Crusader Rabbit in reality is a vigilante dispensing vigilante justice. He acted on his own ‘righting’ what he perceived as wrongs. Of course those of us who read comic books in the late forties had already been exposed to vigilantism in the form of comic book heroes like the Blackhawks. Or, for that matter Batman and Robin and Superman among many others, Plastic Man. I sort of thought of myself as Plastic Man.
So this whole age cadre was stoked up on revolution and vigilantism with no venues to express it. The sixties then was a god send as the existing revolutions- the Undermen, the Jews, the Blacks, the Homosexuals, the Feminists, the Communists had merely to whisper the word REVOLUTION to get a positive response for their ideologies. The generation was primed for revolution of any sort- a revolution in bubble gum for instance.
Thus at Berkeley in ’64’s so-called Free Speech Movement you had the spectacle of the most advantaged members of the generation participating in what was a part of the Jewish Revolution in the guise of voluntary Undermen.
Thus as the sixties dawned the way was cleared of any resistance to revolutionary schemes as hordes of self-righteous vigilantes confident that their perception and judgment was received from god himself began to act on their assumptions taken from their misguided elders.
The center of this maelstrom in the sixties was New York City. The Bohemian life style stewing in Lower Manhattan since the Armory Show of 1913 was about to conquer the mind of the country. Perhaps the leader of the sixties Bohos was Andy Warhol. Certainly with a kind of genius he made himself the center of the storm.
This most influential Bohemian attitude toward life was both stratified and diverse. The first out of the box were the uptown Beats. These men seized the attention of the country in the mid-fifties when Allen Ginsberg, a leader of the Jewish, Homosexual and Underman revolutions, gained prominence with his so-called poem, Howl. He then dragged Jack Kerouac through with his On The Road and William S. Burroughs with his Naked Lunch. All three works have been incredibly influential in creating a new Underclass of Undermen, in thought if not in fact.
The Beats hung out in upper Manhattan around Kerouac’s alma mater, Columbia, although Ginsberg gravitated downtown in an effort to pair up with the Beat musical epigone, Bob Dylan. As Ginsberg represented four revolutions it could be said of him- Il est partout, a very important if disgusting figure. Burroughs also gravitated to lower Manhattan before departing for the corn fields of Kansas.
The well-to-do or rich Bohos, to which John and Yoko would belong, sometimes known as Cafe Society, were the upper crust of Bohemia. And then there was the middle Bohemia and it Lower Depths.
Running through all was the old avant garde which excluded the Beats who were not avant garde.
Warhol, John Cage, La Monte Young and a host of artists and writers including Yoko Ono were part of the old garde. Yoko dragged Lennon in but he was not constitutionally avant garde and probably not even a real Boho. Fred Seaman seems to have had no affinity for Bohemia or revolution.
As the sixties dawned Lennon coming from then obscure Liverpool was of the lower middle class but of the English art school background. He spent a couple years in the German underworld before skyrocketing to super world fame with the Beatles so that while he and the Beatles were instrumental in forming the sixties and subsuming the avant garde they were not actually of it. Thus when Lennon came to earth around 1970 he was virtually a Rip Van Winkle who had slept through the decade. The new reolutionary world he and Yoko entered in New York could have been barely understood by them. It wasn’t even really understood by those in the thick of it. Dylan’s ‘Something’s happening here but you don’t know what it is do you Mr. Jones’ could have applied to himself and everyone else.
Yoko Ono was a committed Feminist and key member of that revolution. In a world of eccentric and unusual characters she was a standout. Her career as an avant gardist began as a ‘performance artist’. Essentially a stunt man. Back in the twenties and thirties would be celebrities used their bodies to gain fame performing stunts. One going by the name of The Mighty Atom attached ropes to his hair holding back an airplane. This is essentially what Yoko was doing as a ‘performance artist.’ Her ‘Cut Piece’ urged viewers to come up on stage and cut away a piece of her clothing. She and Tony Cox crawling into a black bag? Whew!
But she was thereby connected to the avant garde. She knew John Cage, Andy Warhol, Sam Green and the lot as early as 1960. The friendships remained enduring as she maintained them throughout the seventies and eighties.
As a performing artist Yoko was a sort of chameleon forming her art to suit the circumstances. Having once captured John Lennon she first became a peacenik as peace was the prevailing notion- love and peace- returning to New York amid the wreckage of the peace, love and happiness bit she got up from her bed of peace and strapped a fully loaded bandolier of bullets around her hips and became a sullen revolutionary a la Bernardine Dorhn. It all art and art is holy, isn’t it?
The Ono-Lennon’s very serious looking revolutionary activities quite naturally brought the Heat down on them. It should be clear that these were not lightweight posturings but she and John were financing the disruption of the Republican National Convention forcing a move of the site from San Diego to Miami. There is small wonder the elected Nixon administration sought to deport them. Neither John nor Yoko were American citizens but essentially part of an international conspiracy, she being a Japanese and he an English national. Thus in addition to being a leader in the Feminist and Sexual revolutions she lent herself to the Judaeo-Communist revolution. Nearly all her revolutionary associates were of the Jewish revolution. Plus John essentially represented the Undermen. Thus Fred Seaman was employed by not only a celebrity household but a notorious one. Nor was Fred an American but a German national. No Americans involved.
Warhol And Bob Dylan
Down below the subway’s screamin’
As I lay here halfway dreamin’
And face the long evenin’
Layin’ close beside my radio
Imaginin’ the kisses of the girl who sings the song
Lookin’ at the ceiling
Wonderin’ where the dream went wrong.
Last Morning- Shel Silverstein
As sung by Ray Sawyer and Dr. Hook.
New York City was indeed a tough cold city. It was enough to make you crazy as you ‘fought the crowds, avoided the traffic and watched the world turn grey.’ Coming from Pittsburgh Andy Warhol had no trouble with the skies turning grey, he was used to much worse. For Dylan coming from Hibbing, Minnesota way, way out on the edge of civilization the change must have been traumatic. Both men, however, were uniquely equipped to succeed in such a tough environment although it turned both crazy, cruel and mean. Both became paragons of the revolutions.
Warhol, the older of the two, forged the revolution of the Undermen and the Homosexuals while acquiring great wealth. Dylan, too, made his appeal to the undermen (the confused, abused, strung out ones and worse) basing his career on the misfits and malcontents. At the same time he was a key player in fundamental Jewish revolution. Both men affected innocent harmless personas so as to deflect attention from what they were really up to. As both had complementary strategies it is quite possible that each saw through the other. Warhol certainly saw through Dylan but I’m not sure if the reverse was true. Both were heavily into drugs which altered their perceptions.
Warhol preceded Dylan on the scene by a decade arriving in NYC in 1950. His homosexual agenda was clear to him from the start even if its implementation wasn’t. He was immediately successful upon his arrival easily gaining entry into the commerical art field. Dylan too would have no trouble gaining both entry and prominence within a year, phenomenal success in two and preeminence in three.
Warhol commanded a large perhaps even great income within a matter of four or five years. He spent madly but invested wisely.
He was always interested in mass production techniques where the original was merely a prototype like a car model. His original drawings were mass replicated by the newspaper ads. Amazingly, new in New York, he sent a letter to CBS asking if he could design record covers and received assignments by return mail. While his record covers are not among his best known works he did design at least fifty while perhaps more remain to be discovered. While his designs were for very low selling jazz and classical records they are obviously the work of a homosexual or, as they are described- fey.
Thus they advance the Homosexual revolution. True, they are tiny drops but by the time he designed the Sticky Fingers cover for the Rolling Stones his design, it can be confidently asserted, was seen by every single member of two generations while selling in the millions. The title and cover are an ode to masturbation, one of the favorite thems of both the Homosexual and Sexual revolutions. The illustration was of a male crotch clothed in blue jeans with a workable zipper. It was a retailing nightmare but effective in sexually conditioning the minds of his audience. The zipper was irresistible to record fans who broke the plastic on every single cover making them nearly unsaleable. Success actually unimaginable to Warhol in 1950.
In addition Warhol designed ‘fey’ book covers, frequently for homosexually oriented titles thus adding a few additional drops, pushing toward 9cc. Andy had his sticky fingers in everywhere- stationery, wrapping paper…all with his fey designs.
While he gained great success as a commercial artist he had his eye on the fine arts; about 1960 he made his move into ‘serious’ art- painting. He called his style Pop Art. Pop Art had its antecedents in the fifties of which Warhol would have been aware. Here are a couple examples by Ray Johnson from the mid-fifties. Johnson is described as proto-Pop.
Having made his splash in Pop Art, becoming a major celebrity, Warhol was ready to move into his next phase in the subversion of art and society. In 1964 he established his famous atelier known as the Factory. There he continued his paintings while beginning an influential if unremunerative secondary career as a film auteur.
There seem to be revolutionary motives in the founding of the Factory. Warhol gathered about him a collection of the Undermen. These were all Homosexuals, druggies, hustlers and prostitutes.
There is an interesting passage in the Weathermen founder’s autobiography Fugitive Days where the author, Bill Ayers, says:
…the most interesting alliance to me was struck in the first months underground, and it was with a kind of eccentric shadowy group that would become fast and reliable friends for decades to come.
The group was without a name, contained hundreds of members in half a dozen cities, and was organized by a charismatic leader and psychologist who called himself Kaz. They were all former heroin addicts, former beatniks, former hustlers, and prostitutes, five, ten, twenty years older than us, now living in luxury and working downtown but thinking of themselves primarily as deep, deep underground, a kind of fifth column waiting patiently for the revolution.
What Ayers appears to be describing is the Haut Boheme Cafe Society of New York. Now, Warhol with the Factory created a place where all Bohemia, high and low, could gather under the reasonable pretext of partying which is what happened. Many attendees would be innocents of course providing even better cover for the revos. To get some idea of what the scene was like review the lyrics to Shel Silverstein’s Freakin’ At The Freakers Ball appended. Silverstein seems to be describing the Factory exactly.
The police had the Factory under surveillance as well as one supposes, the FBI. The deep underground wasn’t deep enough to conceal these characters. The Factory would be forced out by ’68 giving it a four year run. Bereft of a gathering place Bohemia would have to wait until 1977 for another when Rubell and Schrager put together Studio 54. 54 was better than the Factory because attendance could be monitored allowing only the Haut Boheme and other chosen in; the undesirables could be left out. 54 was run in contempt of all existing laws and moral codes. Suspicious from the beginning it took the Feds only eighteen months to shut it down. Like The Factory however Studio 54 had its revolutionary effect especially along sexual lines- unisex toilets for instance.
The multi-talented Warhol, a perfect Prince of Bohemia added authorship to his achievements with his novel ‘a’ while moving into publishing in the seventies when he established the successful magazine Interview.
He added several notable record covers, while forming in ’66 the immensely influential Exploding Plastic Inevitable centered around ‘his’ rock band The Velvet Underground.
So, in promoting several different revolutions- the Undermen, the drug culture, the so-called sexual revolution and undoubtedly many others Warhol was one of the most successful and important revolutionary figures of the decade.
Along the way he formed a close relationship with the Feminist revolutionary, the Japanese citizen, Yoko Ono. As a bona fide member of the avant garde she tried to enter Warhol’s entourage before she left for England in ’66. However at the time she was outspokenly antipathetic to homosexuality which probably necessitated her retreating to London to think things over before returning in 1971.
She returned in grand style leading the founder of the Beatles, John Lennon, as though by a rope around the neck. She and Lennon immediately threw themselves into the revolutionary movement associating themselves with various members of the Jewish revolution. they apparently gave large sums of money while lending their personas and prestige to raise much larger sums. It was the fear of their popularity being used to rouse young Americans in this first election in which eighteen year olds could participate that put him under surveillance, quite justifiably so, by the FBI and the Nixon White House. Thus for the next several years they were harassed by deportation threats as undesirable aliens.
Having achieved her goal of reentry into New York avant garde society even becoming an intimate of Andy Warhol Yoko lost interest in Lennon. The two split up for eighteen months or so from 1973 to 1975 then reuniting. Yoko had employed her Tarot reader John Green in 1974 while Fred Seaman was added to the entourage as Lennon’s personal assistant in 1979.
While the memoirs of Green and Seaman have been disparaged by the faithful I see little reason to do so on an objective basis although Yoko Ono may find them offensive for personal reasons.
Part III follows
Freakin’ At The Freaker’s Ball
As Performed By Dr. Hook & The Medicine Show
Well, there’s gonna be a freaker’s ball
Tonight at the Freaker’s Hall
And you know you’re invited one and all.
Come on Babys grease your lips
And don’t forget to bring your whips
We’re goin’ to the Freaker’s Ball.
Blow your whistle and bang your gong
Roll up something to take along
It feels so good it must be wrong
We’re freakin’ at the freaker’s ball.
Well, all the fags and dykes they’re boogie’n together
The leather freaks dressed in all kinds of leather
The greatest of the sadists and the masochists too
Screamin’ please hit me and I’ll hit you
The FBI dancin’ with the junkies
All the straights swingin’ with the funkies
Across the floor and up the wall
We’re freakin’ at the freaker’s ball y’all
We’re freakin’ at the freaker’s ball.
Everybody’s kissing each other
Brother with sister, son with mother
Smear my body up with butter
And take me to the freaker’s ball.
Pass that roach please and pour the wine
I’ll kiss yours if you kiss mine
I’m gonna boogie ’til I’m cold blind
Freakin’ at the freaker’s ball.
White ones, black ones, yellow ones, red ones
Necrophiliacs lookin’ for dead ones
The greatest of the sadists and the masochists too
Screamin’ please hit me and I’ll hit you.
Everybody ballin’ in batches
Pyromaniacs strikin’ matches
Freakin’ at the freaker’s ball, y’all
We’re freakin’ at the freaker’s ball.
May 18, 2010
The Last Days Of John Lennon
Review by R.E. Prindle
Seaman Fred: The Last Days Of John Lennon, A Personal Memoir. Citadel Press, 1991.
The Ghost Of Elvis Presley
In order to understand the zeitgeist of the sixties one has to go back to the fifties. The central event of the fifties was the annunciation of Elvis Presley. The post-war world was a grey world of fear. The country and the world had emerged from the greatest of all catastrophes, the Second World War. WWII itself was fought in the shadow of the Great War of 1914-18, afterwards known as WWI.
Most of the older generation had lived through both wars which was a terrifically horrifying experience. In 1950 those who were seventy or older had memories of the Indian Wars of the late nineteenth century also. In addition perhaps the most terrifying memory of the pre-WWII generations was that of the Great Depression of the thirties. From 1945 to 1960 they lived in terror that the Depression would return. There was thus a great generational divide between them and those of us who had no memory of the Depression and only vague memories of the second world cataclysm.
The older generations were struggling to restore the normalcy of the period between the wars as they wished it might have been. Technology had made this impossible. Not only had the Atomic Bomb come into existence but almost immediately after the war the sky was filled with the most extraordinary of phenomena- the faster than the speed of sound jet plane. The pilots of this wondrous piece of technology delighted in flying low over cities breaking the sound barrier as they did and sending a sonic boom shimmering down. If you’ve never experienced a sonic boom you have yet to be there.
The miracle of the age however was television. (Some people call it the boring fifties but they obviously weren’t there.) Television made the greatest threat to civilization yet known to man possible. That threat was Elvis Presley. Elvis simple announced by his presence that the pre-war world would not be returning- ever. The younger generation would fashion the world in his image.
More than that Presley wasn’t an image of the upper class college youth like Pat Boone but the avatar of the downtrodden and suppressed not unlike Jesus the Christ himself. They took one look at Elvis and realized that he was the Atomic Bomb that would blow up their world. And he did.
Every move Elvis made was an insult to them. Things that had no relevance to them they took as a personal insult. One such was the innocuous anthem by the songwriters Leiber and Stoller originally written as a Negro ghetto sex anthem, Hound Dog. When Elvis sang You ain’t nothin’ but a hound dog, for some reason they projected it as a reference to themselves and they deeply resented it.
Of course every attempt to suppress Elvis deepened the generational divide. Not only did Elvis himself exist but it seemed as though every upcoming rock n’ roll singer wanted to be Elvis. Before the Presley clones of Vegas there were the Elvis imitators in every family’s living room like Gene Vincent, Ricky Nelson, Eddie Cochran and nearly the whole roster of Sun Records, plus, plus, plus….
For most of the old folks rock n’ roll itself was a mystery. They thought it was a Communist plot, might have been I don’t rule it out, but if so we were not conspirators but dupes. We just reveled in it. They almost succeeded in destroying it. Elvis got drafted, in his absence the great rock n’ rollers were driven out, discredited and in some cases killed. When Presley returned in 1960 he was different from when he went in. He had been contained.
John Lennon famously said in 1977 after Elvis died that he died the day he went into the army. While a relevant statement it was not quite true. The first stage in Elvis long immolation was when he fell under the control of his manager Col. Tom Parker, the second stage in his demise was when Parker delivered him to RCA Records, the third stage in his death was when RCA assigned Steve Sholes as his producer.
For those of us who were there the real Elvis Presley ceased to exist when he left the Sun record label. RCA was in no position to understand rock n’ roll values. It wasn’t that they willfully sabotaged Elvis it was just that they didn’t know how to rock. Their idea of rock was Neil Sedaka. Sholes himself was antipathetic to rock ‘n roll no less than his crosstown rival Mitch Miller over at Columbia Records. Both men hated the concept. This was made evident in Sholes arrangement of Gene Austin’s Are You Lonesome Tonight with its plodding guitar riff and Elvis’ imitation of the thirties crooner. Sholes failed to ruin Elvis’ career but it took Mitch Miller one LP to trash the career of the great Dion of the Belmonts.
Very few if any of the great rock records were produced by the majors. Nearly everything of value was produced by independent labels, many of them one shot efforts. Gene Vincent and his Be-Bop-A-Lula was a notable exception although his label, Capitol, soon had him singing Somewhere Over The Rainbow.
After the first run of actual imitators Elvis and rock worked their way into the subconscious of the next wave that included Lennon and the Beatles to produce an extension of rock.
Upon Presley’s return from the army his manager, Parker, removed him from recording and put Elvis into the movies almost exclusively. The movie Elvis was an extension of the personality of Tom Parker. Elvis was Elvis and his appearance was always galvanic. His charisma could be diminished but it couldn’t be destroyed. I was as disappointed by his movies as much as anyone dropping in only occasionally over the sixties to see if anything had changed. It hadn’t.
Thus as we all moved into the sixties while Presley still lived it was only as the ghost of the Sun Records innovator.
The Ghost of Elvis Presley was captured by the artist Andy Warhol in a number of renderings.
He presented Elvis in various single screens or multiples of two, three and up to the eight as in the image above. He ignored the musical Elvis in favor of an image taken from a Western movie. As Warhol was a homosexual he rendered Elvis as a gay cowboy. In truth Elvis had an ambiguous persona. Many people thought he was queer. Any male fan felt himself under the accusation. Elements of his persona indicate a severely emasculated personality that lend credence to at least a latent feeling of homosexuality. Elvis’ fellow students called him ‘squirrel.’ Indeed, the use of eye shadow, pants with a stripe down the leg and pink shirts in 1951-52 and ’53 would have led to open accusations of homosexuality. And yet, even though I identified with his obvious emasculation when I was only sixteen and seventeen it never occurred to me that he might have been one. I don’t think he ever was. Had he been his more than macho entourage would have had nothing to do with him. Nevertheless his portraitist Warhol perfectly captured his ambivalence and androgyny.
The number of portraits by the artist clearly betrays Warhol’s own hero worship. Perhaps his own gay cowboy movie owed some reverence to his idol. Oddly enough Warhol never designed a record cover for Presley even though he designed over fifty during a career from 1949 to 1987.
Andy had always been a pop music fan. This was very unusual for a man born in 1928. This would have made him 26 if one assumes ’54 as the birth of rock and 28 in ’56 when Presley exploded onto the scene. Anyone older than 18 in ’56 rejected rock. It is true that Warhol was dualistic, capabhle of listening to opera and rock at the same time, I mean simultaneously, so he may have had his personality split by the times. At any rate Warhol who apparently wished to excel in all the arts attempted to enter the music field by managing a band, while establishing a rock venue. In 1965 he took The Velvet Underground in as his house band while setting up a venue called The Dom. Not stopping there he also created an ambient experience, or light show, he called The Exploding Plastic Inevitable. The combination of music and light was innovative and widely imitated. Unfortunately Warhol didn’t have a secure lease and the venue got away from him. Perhaps realzing he was spreading himself too thin he never followed up letting the Velvets go their own way.
Warhol nevertheless established close bonds with other musicians. His attempted connection to Bob Dylan failed. Whether sour grapes or not he comitted this thought to his diary in July of 1985:
Watched the Live-Aid thing on TV. Bobby Zaren’s office had been calling, wanting me to go down there, but with that many big celebrities you never get any publicity. Later on that night Jack Nicholson introduced Bob Dylan and called him “transcendental.” But to me, Dylan was never really real- he was just mimicking real people and the amphetamine made it come out magic. With amphetamine he could copy words and make it all sound right. But that boy never felt a thing- (laughs) I just never bought it.
Warhol did succeed with Mick and Bianca Jagger and the Rolling Stones. While his cover for the first Velvet Underground album was considered innovative (read: weird) his cover for the Stones’ Sticky Fingers album with its functional zipper was as the term of the time went, mindblowing.
While Warhol never established contact with the Beatles, when his fellow artist Yoko Ono led her trophy husband, John Lennon, from London to New York in 1970 another firm connection to musicians and the inheritor of Elvis Presley’s mantle as the Savior was formed. Over all floated the Ghost of Elvis Presley.
Part II: John & Yoko In New York follows.
Yoko Ono And The Men Who Influenced Her
Review by R.E. Prindle
Clayson, Alan: Woman: The Incredible Life Of Yoko Ono, Chrome Dreams, 2004.
Yoko Ono involved herself with several of the most influential men in the arts during the sixties, seventies and eighties of the twentieth century. She drew her inspiration from them patterning her own efforts after them. At the same time she was one of the leading feminists of the day having her share in shaping and furthering the movement. The mantra was female liberation, equality between men and women. In fact women were equal to men in the West but only by acknowledging the biological differences between men and women. The fact is the differences are real and not social constructs as women would have us believe. The fact is women are women and men are men. So, in seeking ‘female liberation’ feminists were seeking much more than ‘equality’ however the term may be defined.
The fact is that in the Ages old war between the sexes feminists are seeking to restore the Matriarchy and destroy the Patriarchy. That is why many men favor feminism, they prefer the Matriarchy. Thus the feminists are atavistic. Yoko and her cohorts wished, in her words, to restore ‘heart’ as she viewed the Matriarchy and eliminate ‘reason’ as she viewed quite rightly the basis of Patriarchalism. Nevermind that bilogical science has invalidated the concepts of Matriarachy and Patriarchy. This is a post Matriarchy and Patriarchy world.
Circa -2000 in the West men revolted against the mind stifling Matriarchy and the vaginal swamp of the ‘heart’ seeking to establish
the authority of the infinite power of the mind of Zeus on ethereal Olympus. This is the story of Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey and the Greek myths in general recording the struggle.
The Western male was able to impose the ascendency of reason over the heart for 3000 years until the disestablishment of the old order by science about mid-nineteenth century. The center could not hold during this period of extreme change as W.B. Yeats put it as the rearrangement of the intellectual order moved into the twentieth century.
Yoko Ono sought with her feminist fellows to return to the biological innocence of 2000 BC. She herself had no talent. Filled with audacity she pitted her ‘heart’ against the reason of John Cage, Andy Warhol and John Lennon. I’m sure she had a mentor for her so-called performance art but I am as yet unaware of who he may be. Perhaps Maciunas and the Fluxus group.
Thus her first manifestation as an artist was based on the musical ideas of John Cage while her artistic efforts were at least based in the avant garde ideas of the Fluxus group. Her first assault on the NYC art world failed so in 1961 she returned in defeat to Japan. When she returned to NYC in 1964 she found an entirely different art scene. On the musical side the focus was on Bobby Dylan and the Beatles while on the artistic side Andy Warhol and his Factory had destroyed the Abstract Expressionists and the old avant garde. Dylan, the Beatles and Warhol had in fact usurped the avant garde which now had little meaning. From my point of view held at the time the avant garde had ceased to exist. Of course I didn’t understand exactly why or how.
From 1964 when Yoko returned to NYC until 1966 when she left for London I’m sure Yoko was at a loss. She developed her silly
notion of Bagism at this time even having a black bag on a stand in Max’s Kansas City that some one or ones were supposed to slide into. This seems to have been thought a lame idea at the time as it seems now.
At this time while retaining allegiance to John Cage’s musical ideas she was falling under the influence of Andy Warhol’s artistic notions. Warhol’s intent had been to destroy the idea of ‘fine art’. In this he pretty well succeeded. As Yoko expressed it you didn’t need any talent to be an artist. She seems to demonstrate this notion in her own artistic efforts. Warhol had also redefined the notion of film with his static studies. He then sought to combine his film ideas with live music, probably in competition with Bob Dylan who was also attempting to move in that direction. Warhol adopted Lou Reed and his band the Velvet Underground as the Factory house band while creating a multi-media show called the Exploding Plastic Inevitable, innovative for its time. Thus a concert at his hall, the Dom, was an ‘experience.’
While Yoko makes no mention about how this, actually, incredible development affected her there can be no doubt that she was well aware of Dylan, the Beatles and the Warhol Experience and was affected by it. Indeed, the first manifestation was the making of her Warhol style films such as Bottoms.
The second manifestation was her removal to London to seduce either Lennon or McCartney of the Beatles, thus in the manner of Warhol’s adoption of the Velvet Underground she sought to co-opt the Beatles, the premier rock group in the world. Real chutzpah and more than one upping Warhol. I think it would be nonsense to think she had any other goal in mind.
She undoubteldy learned that Paul McCartney was actively involved with John Dunbar and his Indica Gallery that opened in 1965.
Some say she first set her sights on McCartney but the more vulnerable Lennon showed up and the Spider Woman spread her web.
She was still married to her second husband, Tony Cox, but, regardless of what she says she very aggressively pursued, or attacked, Lennon. Lennon was emotionally under water unable to handle his success while drugging himself out of his mind. He was unwillingly married to his wife Cynthia. It appears that he married Cynthia out of duty when she became pregnant. He doesn’t seem to have been happy in his virtue. Yoko had no difficulty in capturing his affections.
Now, just as Warhol had adopted the Velvets and imposed his female singer, Nico, on the band Yoko sought to imp[ose herself on the Beatles through Lennon. At this time she was still musically completely in thrall to John Cage understanding nothing about Rock music. She and Lennon had made a ridiculous LP called Two Virgins in 1968. She combined her cagian screechings while using an avant garde ‘performance’ notion of the couple posing nude on the cover; full frontal on the obverse, full posterior on the reverse. As no store would carry the cover the couple reverted to Yoko’s idea of Bagism placing the cover inside a plain manila envelope or bag. While it didn’t sell the record this form of Bagism was actually a successful artistic statement. The nude cover given an outer garment so to speak.
Well, the public was prepared to forgive the Beatles anything but the other three Beatles weren’t prepared to forgive Yoko for forcing herself on them thus she broke up the most successful act of the sixties. Still, she had succeeded according to her wildest dream. Lennon and his wonderful reputation and fortune were hers. She had gone from a neglected, nondescript ‘performance’ artist to center stage, not on her own womanly talents but by attaching herself to a talented man. Yoko’s ‘heart’ was useless without the male intellect. Yoko was now the most influencial feminist in the world. She knew what to do with that.
After several ‘performance’ acts such as the ‘Bed In For Peace’ the couple left England to return to the place Yoko wished to subjugate artistically, New York City. She had raised herself to a par with Andy Warhol. She now had to meld her musical and artistic goals through Lennon and Warhol.
On the musical side she began to develop her rock n’ roll skills under the tutelage of Lennon. While not abandoning the avant garde notions of John Cage she now emasculated her husband. Always semi-delusional or perhaps completely so, she fantasized that she was not only equal to Lennon in skill and popularity but superior to him. She imagined herself more popular than Lennon. Thus one has such travesties as the LP Double Fantasy. It was only after Lennon’s death that she was forced to recognize than Lennon’s fans did not appreciate her efforts. So she failed as a musician.
She quickly tired of being Mrs. Lennon. Thus she and Lennon separated for eighteen months or so during the years 1973-75. She then realized that her financial well being and musical acceptance depended on Lennon. In 1975 she called him back resuming their relationship until his death in 1980. But, things had changed.
She began to adopt Warhol’s life style on her return to NYC. While she propagated the notion that she was some sort of business whiz Iam having difficulties discovering any such skills. It appears that with the enormous income of Lennon she emulated Warhol in
spending her way to prosperity.
She was in a position to not only match Warhol’s spending but exceeding it by many times. Through the seventies and eighties Warhol came into his own as an artist while reaping a fortune doing portraits. There appears to have been no effort on his part to invest in income producing vehicles. Rather he bought stuff. He purchased buildings in NYC and elsewhere while acquring undeveloped acreage in places like Aspen. He shopped nearly every day buying antiques from furniture to objets d’ art by the bushel almost as though he were trying to excel the incredible W.R. Hearst.
He usually didn’t even look at the stuff once he bought it merely filling rooms with his shopping bags. At his death all this junk was auctioned off for 25 million dollars, a nice appreciation in value.
Yoko followed the exact pattern buying apartments and houses as well as an extensive dairy farm with a herd of prize cows. She not only had but has five apartments in her principal dwelling, the Dakota apartment building and many other houses scattered around.
Like Warhol the Dakota apartments are stuffed with junk. Valuable, but, you know, stuff. She bought at good prices. Her extensive collection of Egyptian antiquities was mostly purchased before a steep rise in value.
Like the Rothschilds of old Yoko didn’t do all her own shopping but employed agents to search things out. Chief among these was an associate of Warhol’s, Sam Green, and an Hungarian immigrant by the name of Sam Havadtoy.
There should be no surprise then that she now has an extensive collection of Warhol’s artwork as well as his portraits of Lennon. The Warhols would have been purchased for form 25 to 50K while now being listed on her assets at tens of millions. She also has been said to have a good collection of Magrittes as well as one assumes other artists. So, much of her net worth is tied up in artwork purchased through Sam Green.
Sam Havadtoy was an antiques dealer as well as an interior designer. He appears to have been a somewhat shady character. It is very difficult to find much about him, however there is a sharp portrait available from the notorious A.J. Weberman ( http://www.acid-trip.org/lennon/ )
…(the Lennons) hired a sleazy Eastern European bisexual to renovate the pad. (Dakota) I had heard of this dude, whose name escapes me, from an asswipe named BRUCE KIRSH, who worked for him. KIRSH told me that the dude, who worked for the King of Morocco, would form a dummy renovation company, hire employees like Kirsch who were willing to work under false names, then, when it came time to pay taxes, everyone would disappear. I learned of him long before he was hired by John and Yoko, and I was taken aback when Yoko took up with him after John’s death.
I know that Weberman is not particularly well thought of by fandom but this is because of his harassment of Dylan who did, after all, misrepresent himself to the revolutionaries like Weberman. A.J. himself is an intelligent observer who was wading through it when it was deep. I do believe he knows what he’s talking about although his interpretations of Dylan’s lyrics seem absurd.
I would have to question Yoko’s judgment in taking him in. Both he and Sam Green were candidates as successors to Lennon with
whom she consorted in front of Lennon before he died while Yoko chose Havadtoy as his successor the day he died.
Perhaps she selected Havadtoy over Green because he was more rough trade. With Lennon while managing to reconcile revolution with peace and love with Havadtoy she discarded peace and love in favor of strong arm methods against her former employee Fred Seaman when it was totally unnecessary.
Havadtoy was living in a homosexual arrangement with his business partner when Yoko beckoned him to switch to her. Apparently an able switch hitter he was lured by the money to this much older woman. The arrangement did last for twenty years before Havadtoy removed to his native Hungary taking a nice cash settlement and several of the Warhols.
Thus, just as Warhol had his live-in homosexual arrangement so after Lennon’s death Yoko adopted the exact arrrangement. Today she apparently lives alone, a seventy-eight year old woman.
After Lennon’s death there was an accession of from 30 million to a possible 100 million dollars as their last album, Double Fantasy, sold into the millions while the rest of Lennon’s catalog and one assumes the Beatles’ catalog was reinvigorated while all things Lennon sold. This is, of course, no reflection on Yoko but the inevitable result with intellectual properties when the maker dies.
Post-Lennon, then, Yoko realized that her recording and art careers were nil. Heart without intellect is worthless. She then became the caretaker of the Lennon legacy. His recordings, of course, continued to sell, but even his artwork eclipsed that of Yoko. So she suffered the humiliation of being a mere appendage to a man. The feminine dismal swamp was eclipsed by the Olympian heights of the male intellect. As in ancient times the God had trumped the Goddess. And yet as with Hera and Zeus the Goddess gets her way. Yoko came up with the money and goods while Lennon’s spirit was wafted into the stratosphere.
As any reader of mythology knows Hera ruled the Lernean swamps of Argolis while Zeus ruled the gods on ethereal Olympus. Thus one has the symbolism of the biological difference between the male and female.
In ancient times the female had her share in magic. She knew herbs and plants, was familiar with poisons and cures as with the arch witch of the ancient world, Medea. The reputation of the female witch even as a consort of Satan persisted down through medieval and post-medieval times, indeed, even up to the dawn of the scientific enlightenment. One would have thought that magic and witchery were a thing of the past in the 1960s and yet Yoko embodied the whole female swamp mentality.
She established something called the Spirit Foundation attributing the direction to Lennon who in fact knew nothing of these matters but followed her lead. The Spirit Foundation celebrated the ancient art of the Shaman or witch doctor. Shamanism itself even preceded the Matriarchal swamps of Argolis. It was a rich repository of magical tradition. Further the Foundation was feminist in that it was dedicated to preserving the magical traditions of the women of the Pacific islands still living in such archaic societies. The wealth generated by the male intellect was appropriated by the female vagina or ‘heart.’
In her own life and that of Lennon’s Yoko was addicted to a variety of magical practices- astrology, numerology, Tarot readings, and indeed she traveled to the Caribbean to sell her soul to Satan through the offices of a female curandera. Her Tarot reader, John Green, was a priest in the shamanistic, magical, Yoruban African cult of Santeria.
Her feminism was more a magical effort to restory Matriarchal supremacy over the Patriarchy thus reversing the Patriarchal victory of three thousand years previously. Indeed, what has been called the movement for female equality is nothing more than a covert campaign to restore the Matriarchy.
Thus while Yoko o9riginatd nothing she usurped the abilities of the reason of men- Cage, Warhol, Lennon and male magicians such as John Green. Indeed the Trojan War itself was a war of men in service of women.
In her associations with men she preferrred to deal with emasculated types such as homosexuals like Cage, Warhol, Sam Green and Sam Havadtoy. Lennon claimed to have always been dependent of women for comfort and guidance while Yoko caught him at his most confused and vulnerable.
While she received direction from Cage and Warhol she was able to manipulate Lennon out of his talent somewhat as Vivian did that of Merlin of the Arthurian saga. When Vivian had usurped Merlin’s magical knowledge she buried him deep much as Lennon was put out of the way. Yoko then appropriated his wealth and residual income after his death. It was this constant inflow of cash that allowed her to propagate the notion that she was a financial genius.
Then as the female of the ‘heart’ or vaginal swamp she managed and appropriated the reason of Olympus through Cage, Warhol and Lennon. What she got from Havadtoy other than brute strength is not clear to me.
As such Yoko is Woman. In her case a seeming reversion to the archetypal Shaman of the most ancient times.
January 27, 2010
Exhuming Bob 23b
Of a & b.
Bob, Andy, Edie
And Like A Rolling Stone
The System Of Doctor Tarr And Professor Fether
All the fags and dykes they boogien’ together
Leather freaks dressed in all kinds of leather
The greatest of the sadists and the masochists too
Screamin’ please hit me and I’ll hit you.
The FBI dancin’ with the junkies
All the straights are swingin with the funkies
Cross the floor and up the wall
Freakin’ at the Freakers ball,
Freakin’ at the Freakers ball.
Oh no! Must be the season of the witch.
It may be true that the answer was blowin’ in the wind but, if so, as Donovan said: You might as well try to catch the wind and nobody did. Nobody even had a clue as the inmates poured out their cells and seized the asylum. Even then it wasn’t so easy to tell the nuts from the Docs.
His parents brought a seventeen year old to the asylum to be cured of homosexual tendencies. The psychiatrists had an astonishing method for a cure. Strapping the kid to the torture rack they fixed a couple of electrodes to his body and sent some serious voltage coursing the through his existence rearranging a few brain cells on the way. As his body arched when the juice hit him one is reminded of the prisoner on death row when the steel cap was lowered on his shaved skull. As maximum voltage coursed through his body he too convulsed but when the skull cap was removed the temperature of his blood in his brain was 212 degrees. They’d boiled him to death.
The kids temperature didn’t rise that high but they still managed to scramble his brain. His memory was so blotted he got lost trying to walk around his own block. The cure was worse than the disease. The cure was in fact, no cure as he remained a homosexual. And they call that medicine.
As soon as the kids eyes uncrossed he picked up a guitar and began to wail. Then he formed a band and began to formulate what he would call Metal Machine Music. He hooked up with Doctor Filth who ran an asylum called The Factory that he filled with mental cases. Unlike the psychiatrists Dr. Filth intended to create mental cases.
The kid picked up a whip, donned his leathers and began to boogie. Those leather freaks. Uncomfortable in their own skins they wear the flayed skins of cows, a feminine skin not their own. A guitar and a spike all anyone needed. Jamming his spike in his arm the kid flew from the asylum Factory out to the Cuckoo’s Nest in Keseyland.
Now known as the Velvet Underground, the kid, going by the personal of Lou Reed landed in a disused bowling alley where he and his three bandmates gave a concert. there were perhaps a hundred fifty people in the audience of which a hundred had been let in free by one of the promoters. Imagine a promoter opening the back door for free.
The audience in the bleachers stepped up to the ceiling where the top row required them to stoop to seat themselves edged into their seats. Keep your eye on the right top corner, that’s where the action will be. This was the first concert the promoters had done. The band stood on the floor two thirds of the way down the alleys. The spotlight was on their right directed across the group rather than down on them. I thought it was an interesting effect. The Cuckoo’s Nest had never seen anyhthing like this. A girl drummer had what appeared to be a single snare drum with a mallet underslung so it hammered the bottom of the snare while she banged away at the top with the sticks. Not exactly a beat more like a steady unvarying rumble, an effect almost as interesting as the lights. The two guitars and the bass of the leather clad crew began to hammer out the sound which was just like what became Metal Machine Music although more articulated. Not exactly as continuous am MMM but close.
Then the singer began to chant something about heroin. This wasn’t The Factory this was the Cuckoo’s Nest. A disquieting murmur underscored the machine music. Then some local agitators had a guy stand up to shout out incitements to a riot. The light guy got uneasy. The Velvets twitched, a note of panic came into Reed’s voice. Without so much as a change of tone he incorporated ‘Turn off the light’ into the lyric as the crowd began to think of rushing the Velvets and they gave every indication of bolting.
Turn off the lights, hell. I knew who the agitators must be so I swung the light from the Velvets across the crowd to the right corner where I picked up the agitators. I left the spot on them steadily. Their anonymity stripped from them the crowd recognized them and quieted down. The Velvets hadn’t missed a beat but they did get a little wobbly.
I quickly picked out the ‘mastermind’ , who was who I thought he was and his stooge who had been loaded up with something. With the spot on him he thought he was the star continuing to orate as Reed intoned on while the band chugged along like an assembly line gone berserk.
The ‘mastermind’ now ordered me to turn the light off him. The noise was too loud for him to hear me laughing. At last he got his stooge to sit down and the light swung back to the Velvet Underground and they continued their chaunt to the glories of heroin as though nothing had happened. Nothing had, just a variation on the show down on Desolation Row. They left the Cuckoo’s Nest finding their way back to the Factory and Dr. Filth.
Back home in The Factory the fags and dikes were cracking their whips, blowing their whistles and banging their gongs while the necrophiliacs were looking for dead ones.
As we left them in part a, Dr. Filth had been castigated by the Man Of The Hour over the air for all to hear if not recognize in his musical rants, Like A Rolling Stone and Positively 4th Street.
I’m not prepared to say it’s so but others have suggested that a few lines in Desolation Row refer to the Factory and Andy Warhol. As Desolation Row was recorded on August 4th a few days after Stone and Street it is quite possible ill feeling lingered and found expression in Dylan’s lines.
The lyrics are purposely written in obscure language meant to imitate poetry and mystify. Without a key one can speculate all day ending up where you began. Dylan does give us a clue as to his imagery in Chronicles where he says Pound and Elliot were fighting it out in the Captains’s tower. The Captain’s Tower refers to Dylan’s brain and the discussion of the two poets.
There is a very large discussion of this stuff on the internet if anyone wants to go through it. Anyway the lines thought to refer to Warhol are these.
Dr. Filth, he keeps his world
Locked inside his leather cup
But all his sexless patients
They’re trying to blow it up.
Now, his nurse, some local loser,
She’s in charge of the cyanide hole
She also keeps the cards that read
“Have mercy on his soul.”
They all play on the pennywhistle
You can hear them blow
If you hang your head out far enough
From Desolation Row.
I think most commonly people take Dr. Filth to refer to Freud. Multiple meanings are possible while the cast of characters in Row appear to be well known historical figures or characters from literature. At the same time, as Warhol points out, the songs of this period are personal protests so the figures can stand in for people Dylan knows. He changed their faces and gave them brand new names.
On the other hand Dr. Filth could refer to Warhol whose reputation was suffering by mid-’65. The society people had begun to avoid the Factory leaving Andy only the derelicts.
As I said I can’t find anything totally convincing to pin Dr. Filth on Warhol but the next verse isn’t applicable to Freud and the verse after depending on how you interpet pennywhistle and blow might apply to the Factoryites.
And then there are these lines:
Now, at midnight all the agents
And the supernatural crew
Come out and round up everyone
That knows more than they do.
Then they take them to the Factory…
Like I say, it’s up to you. What is clear is that there was serious competition between Dylan and Warhol and that Sedgwick was a bone of contention.
As the late fall and summer progressed then, Dylan worked hard to draw Edie from Warhol. This made Andy very, very jealous and he turned from Edie spurning her from him ‘with his foot.’ There is a possibility that in some weird homosexual way Warhol loved Edie. According to the movie Factory Girl Warhol took her home to meet his mom. It might mean that that was an actual declaration of love and that he considered her his girl.
By this time Edie was broke having gone thorugh her inheritance whnile even having her stipend from her parents suspended because of her association with Warhol and the Factory crowd. ‘In her prime when she dressed so fine’ she refused to use taxis having a white limo waiting at the curb for her use. Now that she could no longer afford one Dylan rented a black one for her use. Thus when she rode around town in Dylan’s limo she would be known as Dylan’s kept woman. This would also have been a direct insult to Warhol who was penniless in comparison being unable even to pay Sedgwick for her roles in his films or even, her rent. Thus as the Dylan figure in Factory Girl tells her: You’re just one of Warhol’s props.
Now, Dylan in his first English tour had Donn Pennebaker do a film verite that would be released in 1967 as Dont Look Back. Dylan and his entourage who all had parts in the film just like the Factory crew did in Warhol’s would have been talking up the film thus actually becoming direct competitiors of Warhol. As an enticement to Edie Albert Grossman threatened to become her manager while promises were made to her that she would be Dylan’s co-star in a planned movie and even be paid for her services. Remember she was stone broke at this time being desperately in need af an adequate income. Rather than being Dylan’s girl friend she was passed to his gofer, stooge, right hand man, Bobby Neuwirth who became her possessor while she was living at the Chelsea.
That November of ’65 Dylan married Sara Lowndes. According to Bob Spitz in his biography Dylan met Lowndes in 1963 installing her in Grossman’s apartment where he ‘lived’ with her which I suppose means visited her from time to time as among his other duties he was living with Suze Rotolo and heavy with Joan Baez.
Dylan attempted to keep his marriage secret, it was publicly revealed in April of ’66 but Warhol got word of it in December spitefully revealing the news to Edie. The news was devastating to Edie who was nurturing her fantasies of being Dylan’s woman and future co-star. Apparently at that time she was told that any movie role was in some very distant future. At any rate with her relationship with Andy broken Dylan no longer had any use for her. She was just a pawn in his game.
Perhaps in competition or emulation of Dylan’s recording career Warhol decided he wanted to manage a band thus recruiting the
Velvet Underground. To assist the Velvets he picked up on Nico who had just arrived from Europe. As fate would have it Dylan had already had a fling with her during his 1962 visit to England when he worte I’ll Keep It With Mine for her. Warhol now insisted she front the Velvet Underground, thus the Velvets first LP with Nico and the famous Banana cover.
Apparently forgetting Edie Dylan renewed his acquaintance with Nico showing up with songs to give her. Lou Reed of the Velvets is a great admirer of Dylan but I don’t believe any of his songs made it to the record. In any event Nico was gone by the time of the second Velvets LP. Possibly as part of the Dylan-Warhol feud.
Dylan wasn’t finished with Edie yet nor was Warhol finished with Dylan.
In the Spring of ’66 Dylan recorded his ultimate record Blonde On Blonde. the songs of personal protest as Warhol pointed out revolved around this period. There are two songs that are pointedly about Edie Sedgwick- Leopard Skin Pill Box Hat and Just Like A Woman while other references seem to be scattered about. The two songs were unnecessarily cruel.
In the Spring of ’66 Warhol began a film titled The Bob Dylan Story. This was a derogatory depiction of the Folk Singer that Warhol thought better of releasing. Giving Dylan’s reaction to Factory Girl, Warhol’s pockets weren’t deep enough to take Dylan on who by ’67 when the film first could have been released Dylan was worth millions while warhol was still essentially penniless.
Anent the Bob Dylan Story I quote from the web site http://www.warholstars.org/ :
Sterling Morrison speaking:
“Dylan was always around, giving Nico songs. there was one film Andy [Warhol] made with Paul Caruso called The Bob Dylan Story. I don’t think Andy has ever shown it. It was hysterical. they got Marlowe Dupont to play Al Grossman. Paul Caruso not only looks like Bob Dylan but as a super caricature he makes even Hendrix look pale by comparison. This was around 1966 when the film was made and his hair was way out here. When he was walking down the street you had to step out of his way. On the eve of filming, Paul had a change of heart and got his hair cut off- close to his head and he must have removed about a foot so everyone was upset about that. then Dylan had his accident and that’s why the film was never shown.”
Although sterling Morrison suggested that the Bob Dylan film was never shown because of Dylan’s motorcycle accident, the accident occured at the end of July 1966 and Susan Pile was filmed for the movie in October 1966.
Susan Pile speaking:
“Andy filmed The Bob Dylan Story, starring Paul Caruso…Ingrid Superstar and I were folkrock groupies who rushed in (to the studio), attacked his body and taped him to the motorcycle… Paul Morrisey suggested all of Paul Caruso’s lines be from songs, but Andy, knowing it was a good idea (this is a direct relay from Paul Morrissey) vetoes….My one line (which I wasn’t supposed to say; I was to remain mutely sinister) was: “You’re just like P.F. Sloane and all the rest- you want to become famous so you can get rid of those pimples.” (accompanied by quick slaps to P. Caruso’s acne-remnanted cheeks)…
The psychology is clear but noteworthy is the taping of Dylan to his ‘Chrome horse.’ When Dylan had his bike accident the rear wheel locked throwing him over the handle bars. Thus taping him to the bike would prevent that. Now, the animosity between the two was real and deep. It may have seemed to Dylan that he had trumped Warhol. While Warhol may have passively taken the humiliation it is also quite likely he would have retaliated. The wheel locking would seem to indicate someone tampering with the bike. Either Warhol had the bike tampered with and was gloating over Dylan here in his movie or else it is a cruel joke. Whether Warhol was responsible for the bike accident or not he was certainly gleeful about it as evidenced here. If the bike was tampered with then someone wanted to see him paralyzed.
Thus matters stood at the end of ’66. In 1971 Edie Sedgwick in circumstance of total degradation, shamefully abandoned by her parents and both Dylan and Warhol who both disclaimed any responsiblity died.
In closing I quote Andy Warhol from his Philosophy Of Andy Warhol From A To B:
“(Edie) drifted away from us after she started seeing a singer-musician who can only be described as the Definitive Pop Star- possibly of all time- who was then first gaining recognition on both sides of the Atlantic as the thinking man’s Elvis Presley. I missed having her around, but I told myself that it was probably a good thing that he was taking care of her now, because maybe he knew how to do it better than we had.
Snide, very snide.
There’s gonna be a Freaker’s Ball, tonight at the Freaker’s Hall
Ya know you’re invited one and all.