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.
October 4, 2013
The Faerie Queene Of The Sixties
Would anybody like to try the changes I’m going through?
Life at best is difficult. Change after difficult change presents itself. Of necessity life is lived on the fly. One must always deal with fixtures and forces one cannot comprehend on first confrontation. In a way then we can hardly be responsible for the decisions we make unless we have enough experience to interpret that with which we are confronted correctly. At any point a controlling psychological fixation through misinterpretation may cause to act against our best interests. All further experience then will be interpreted through and disturbed by one or more fixations in our subconscious of which we probably are not aware.
Sexually Marianne was probably confused by the sexual scenes she observed at her father’s Braziers Institute contrasted with her subsequent teaching of abstinence at St. Joseph’s Convent School. The confusions conflicted her sexual attitudes in later life, attitudes she was unaware of and never resolved.
Once she left her father’s governance passing into that of her mother’s she lived not in poverty but in relative hardship; luxuries if experienced at all were few and far between yet she did received an upper class education and outlook at St. Joseph’s.
Her mother was apparently strongly Bohemian having been involved with the stage pre-WWII. She encouraged Marianne in the Bohemian direction which Marianne found congenial, sought and never abandoned. The girl was interested in the stage while becoming a Joan Baez style folk singer after leaving convent school in Reading at seventeen.
While not beautiful in any classic sense she was yet attractive with a great figure making her a desirable sexual object. The sixties was the decade of wide open sex making all women mere sexual objects. Her first reaction was to seek a stable married life choosing John Dunbar as an appropriate husband. Dunbar was Bohemian in outlook while apparently headed for an academic career.
At this point fate intervened. At a party with Dunbar she met the record producer Andrew Loog Oldham who perceived her persona as a marketable commodity in the pop music world. As an added bonus Marianne could actually sing, having performed as a folk singer.
She was still an impressionable girl of just seventeen just after the Pill had been introduced with little ability to successfully traverse the changes she would be called upon to go through. These would be formidable and rapid calling for huge energy reserves on a day to day basis. Not an enviable situation.
While most musicians go through a relatively long learning process and struggle to succeed Marianne struck gold the first time out without even trying. Her first minimal three minute effort, if it was an effort, established her as the pop princess or queen of the generation. Her innocent convent school persona was perfect in a vulgar world. But it was a persona at odds with the one Marianne would seek and embrace- she became the devil with a blue dress on.
While the music or, really, record business seems very attractive from a distance it is literally vile from the inside. Everything connected with it is dishonest, the record companies, musicians, lackeys, the whole number. Nobody remains unstained.
It is truly a man’s world, even a gay man’s world, in which the men have no respect for womankind. Women are expected to merely service the sexual desires of the male performers. They have no use beyond that. Thus one has the phenomenally debauched groupie scene that amazed the world during the sixties. After that there was no longer anything amazing.
Having witnessed sex acts at Braziers of numerous descriptions the pop music world satisfied this side of Marianne’s psyche. At the same time a desire for a chaste life pushed her in the direction of marriage with Dunbar which desire she consummated, however Dunbar proved to be not the ideal choice.
While Marianne thought she would be leading a sedate intellectual academic life with him as a professor he turned out to be as much or more a Bohemian as she was. Quite frankly he failed her.
Having acquired a wife he did not act responsibly toward her. He was blindsided by her recording success and perhaps belittled by her financial success. In effect he was supported by his wife which is always a difficult situation. The changes he faced were in themselves formidable and he didn’t have the character to meet them. Still, a man doesn’t fill his house with dopers and heroin addicts. Marianne can hardly be faulted for resenting it after getting up in the morning to find a house full of conked out junkies in rooms littered with used needles. The transition from Braziers to St. Joseph’s to high degeneration must have been changes hard to adapt to. Sent her head spinning.
The change from the straitened circumstances of her childhood and youth still actually in progress to one of affluence in which she could indulge her wildest fancies in buying clothes and more clothes. Her lack of maturity hurt her badly. In this case her hero William Blake’s notion that the road of excess leads to wisdom was not quite true, it led to penury.
Not clearly seen by many at the time the pop world split into two streams, the British pop stream of the fifties soon to be extinct and the Rock world of pop princes and princesses of the future. The Beatles straddled both worlds while curiously Marianne may have been the first to emerge as a star of the Rock world soon to be followed by the Rolling Stones.
As such even though having only one hit single to her name she was on a par with the Beatles and the Stones while being superior to the lesser groups following in the train of the Beatles and Stones. Thus in the salon formed around the pop art dealer Robert Fraser she held a place of primacy that she never realized. Her tragedy was that she was too young and inexperienced to grasp her opportunity making a series of inept decisions while being seen only as so much poontang by the Rockers and of transitory fame by a series of inept managers.
Thus, unable to find someone capable of carefully building her career she did become transitory, or her career going into hiatus, she did lose her place while gravitating to the dominance of Mick Jagger and the Rolling Stones. Gradually her royalties diminished so that she was financially dependent on Jagger while still married to John Dunbar. Deep in a milieu of drug users she found their allure irresistible.
However conscious she was that she had been and still was to some extent a celebrity she thought to regain that identity. Feeling unable to compete with Jagger as a recording star she chose to follow her mother’s wishes and take up acting. In her enthusiasm to and need to show Jagger that she was somebody too, that she was his equal, as a performing artist she aroused Jagger’s interest in also being a movie star. He, being a more marketable commodity soon gave evidence of eclipsing her as an actor rather than staying in recording as she assumed he would.
Her own space having been preempted she developed an affinity for Brian Jones of the Stones who was essentially in her situation in his relation to the group. He too was being forced out thereby losing his identity.
When Brian died she then in sympathy decided to follow him overdosing with pills that would have killed her had not Jagger been alert enough to rush her to the hospital. As much as anything her suicide attempt was meant to get away from Jagger’s dominance. That move now being thwarted she had no choice but to walk out which she did in 1970. Thus began the rest of her life.
The Rock and Art scene was a drug scene. Bob Fraser’s salon centered around Rock musicians was also a drug center. Fraser introduced members of his salon to all drugs including heroin. Marianne had a favored position in Fraser’s salon early learning of heroin to which Fraser himself was addicted. By the time she walked out on Jagger in 1970 she had been addicted for some time. Heroin was to remain her central fixation throughout her life.
Jagger disapproved of her addiction so she was forced to conceal it from him. When her royalties decreased she no longer had her own money becoming dependent on Jagger. Not wishing to plead for large sums of money from Jagger in order to obtain her heroin she prostituted herself to Keith Richard’s factotum Spanish Tony Sanchez.
Sanchez was an aspiring criminal who came to Richards through Groovy Bob Fraser. Sanchez had met Fraser in a bar after which the friendship blossomed. Fraser had contracted gambling debts to the notorious Kray Brothers, the criminal kingpins of London. The Krays were threatening Fraser with grievous bodily harm if they didn’t get their money. According to Sanchez in his autos Up And Down With The Rollings Stones and I was Keith Richard’s Drug Dealer he volunteered to negotiate the debt with the Krays which he did.
At that time, following their US Mafia model, the Krays were attempting to lift the Beatles from Brian Epstein who also had large gambling debts to them so there is no reason to disbelieve Sanchez. Following the episode with Fraser Sanchez was employed by Richards as drug/procurer-factotum at the fabulous salary of two hundred fifty pounds a week. This leads me to believe that the Krays were using Sanchez to infiltrate the Stones possibly with the intent of taking them over.
Sanchez was always resented by Richards and the Stones but he managed to stick with them until the mid seventies when Richards was able to shake him. In his vanity Sanchez considered himself an essential member of the Stones’ entourage, if not an actual member of the Stones.
Marianne’s misfortune was that everyone wanted to sleep with her, a further misfortune was that she obliged. Thus she and Tony had a sexual liaison for several years. This raises the question then whether Tony was also pimping for her. Certainly as his criminal associates knew he was sleeping with her they would want to also. Not being a fool Tony may have named a price and received it. Whether he or she could have successfully resisted is open to question. The US Mafia certainly used their female artists to gratify their desires.
In the mid sixties additionally, once again, through Fraser Marianne had become part of the Satanic crowd. Through Fraser she was introduced to the arch US Satanist, Kenneth Anger. Through them she was introduced to the writing of Great Satanist of the twentieth century, Aleister Crowley and also the writing of the nineteenth century French arch Satanist, Eliphas Levi, not Jewish despite the name. And then the modern Satanist classic the Russian Bulgakov’s The Master And Margarita published in 1968.
Also in this period she became involved with the Satanist Process Church Of The Final Judgment. Marianne downplays her involvement with Satanism but it was much more serious than she is willing to admit.
Playing against this background Marianne renewed an acquaintance with the Irishman Lord Patrick Rossmore. He was 43 to her 24. I merely mention this, it makes me no never mind what the ages are so long as the couple is comfortable with each other. In this case they weren’t comfortable. The two, in a sort of a farce became engaged but never married parting as they met in a friendly sort of way within several months.
While Mick was aggressively dominating, Marianne seems to have chosen Lord Rossmore because shy and retiring as he was she could dominate him. According to Hodkinson the couple rarely saw each other, he being in Ireland while Marianne remained in London closer to her dope supply.
True to her interpretation of William S. Burroughs degenerate novel, Naked Lunch, she led a totally debased and degraded life as a street junkie or, at least, her version of it. Remember it was her movie of Marianne and she was pretending to be a sociologist. She cultivated the friendship of total degenerates such as the artists Francis Bacon and Lucien Freud. She also became friends with the total junkie, writer Alexander Trocchi. Also at this time becoming fast friends with another lowlife, Henrietta Moraes who she says was a close friend until she died. Marianne was able to sink to lower levels than any of these people and gloried in it.
It was during this period of 1970-71 that she says she sat on the wall in Soho staring into the bomb crater. In his first biography Hodkinson scoffed at this. According to him this wall was a waiting station lined with junkies alert for their supply.
By 1971 the Stones had become tax exiles in the South of France so that Spanish Tony was with Keith no longer able to supply Marianne with her drugs, thus, we suppose, the wall. As Marianne had no regular income during this period, although adequate royalty checks still arrived irregularly, there does arise the question of how she paid for her dope. As a junkie Marianne had no qualms about running up tabs she couldn’t pay and apparently didn’t. At one point she boasts she left New York owing several dealers 20K each while flippantly adding she had no intention of ever paying. Whether she succeeded or not is not known.
Marianne vehemently denies that she resorted to prostitution although there is a fair amount of circumstantial evidence she did. A careful reading of her second auto, Memories, Dreams And Reflections, gives some hints. At one point she retorts to an admirer that she is not a two-bit prostitute, that it would take 200 pounds to be with her. Perhaps a joke but the price sounds right, her retort has the ring of authenticity.
In the same auto she claims first hand acquaintance with all the working girls of the area. There is only one way such first hand knowledge could be obtained. There is or was a video on the internet in which a camera had been placed within a building between two half open doors. Marianne dressed in some pretty snappy expensive looking working girl gear walks in front of the camera, notices it, shows alarm, then quickly turns a corner then flattening herself against the wall to peer back at the camera. It seems evident that she was going to or returning from a job.
She seems to have worked from 1970-71 through at least 1974 through her association with Madeleine D’Arcy. In 1971- during the recording of Exile On Main Street when Tony Sanchez accompanied Keith to the South of France Tony met Madeleine with whom he fell deeply in love and had a relationship with her in France.
Upon returning to England he apparently resumed some sort of relationship with Marianne as well as Madeleine. Marianne in her turn began a lesbian relationship with Madeleine, perhaps to spite Tony, who she despised personally, or so she says. Tony was angry at the relationship.
It then appears that Marianne and Madeleine functioned as high price prostitutes or perhaps call girls between ‘72 to ‘74. In ‘74 Madeleine as Marianne recalls had gone back to turning fifteen pound tricks in Brighton. ’Going back’ implies that formerly she received higher payouts, perhaps 200+ as Marianne received.
As she hadn’t heard from Madeleine for a little while she called at her apartment. When no one answered she called a couple bravos to break down the door. One was a Maltese pimp and drug dealer. At that time in London the Maltese are said to have controlled crime in the West End. That Marianne could call on them to supply help implies a certain degree of familiarity with the underworld. The other person’s identity Marianne doesn’t indicate so there is the possibility it could have been Tony. When no one answered the door the two men broke it down.
Entering the apartment Madeleine was found dead on her bed. She had apparently been beaten to death although not molested as she was artfully laid out in a beautiful full gown. Thus whoever killed her loved her. This points to Tony although the crime was never solved.
So, if Marianne says she never turned to prostitution perhaps not, but there is sufficient evidence to indicate she did. The whole period from 1970-1974 is very hazy in her memoirs.
While she was supposedly incognito on the streets of Soho, as if Marianne could ever be incognito, lost to view of the music world, Michael Leander, who had been her producer suddenly got the idea to make an LP with her so he beat the bushes, scoured the walls so to speak, like any good detective, tracking her down in Soho supposedly sitting on her wall staring into the bomb pit. He induced her back into the studio where they recorded the LP Rich Kid Blues, a return to Marianne’s folk roots.
For some reason the record was shelved not being released until decades later. After this she took up with Oliver Musker who she was associated with for the two years from ’72 to ’74.
The Myth Of Marianne
For all her emotional problems Marianne was a bright girl. She read. Among her readings were those of the psychologist C.G. Jung. Among Jung’s ideas was that of the personal myth. By that he means everyone must have a personal myth to survive, to make sense of what one is doing or what is happening to you. This was more or less the same notion of Andy Warhol’s that if you don’t like the way your life is going pretend it’s a movie. That’s a sort of displacement so what’s happening is just a script that was written for you. Your own personal myth. Lots of people were living in their own movie.
It seems probable, in observing Marianne’s life, that she came across Jung’s observation and set about creating her myth. For proper understanding I quote Jung: p. 197 of the Red Book as quoted in the introduction by Sonu Shamdesani:
I was driven to ask myself in all seriousness: “what is the myth you are living?” I found no answer to the question and had to admit that I was not living with a myth, but rather in an uncertain cloud of theoretical possibilities which I was beginning to regard with increasing distrust…
So in the most natural way, I took on myself to know “my” myth– so I told myself– how could I, when treating my patients, make due allowance for the personal factor, for my personal equation, which is yet so necessary for a knowledge of the other person, if I was unconscious of it.”
During the period of 1970 ‘72 Marianne had fallen on the hardest times, the lack of a model for her life. It seems obvious that the wall bit is perhaps a metaphor for her mental state while sunk into her heroin addiction which perhaps had led to other unsavory activities.
If she really thought she was incognito amongst the street people and shopkeepers who she tells us were wonderful to her, what would have been just another junkie earning money by any means necessary, she is either misremembering or was oblivious to the truth. Marianne was a nationally recognized figure on TV and records who had won the hearts of the people. If anything, one can only think that they wondered how she could have fallen so low but in a manner they still revered the image she had been. On the other hand she says guys drove by and yelled ‘you dirty slag’ out the window. Marianne was in denial.
Without a myth of herself that was all she could do. I don’t know when after her fall from grace in 1967 she had read Jung to conceive of creating her myth but the period after 1970 has certainly been mythologized. Remember she titled her second auto Memories Dream And Reflections which just happens to be the title of Jung’s own auto without the And.
As it was necessary for Marianne to form a new persona after the Redlands bust it appears that the persona began taking shape during this period of extreme depression from ‘70 to ‘72. When she met Musker and perhaps even Leander recorded Rich Kid Blues with her, she began to form the myth and regain an identity and perhaps sanity.
Musker led to Ben Brierly which was a key recovery period and then later she grabbed hold of the supreme works of despair and depression, the works of Brecht and Weil. God, that’s hurting.
All her associates in the mid seventies were Creatures From The Black Lagoon. Black Lagoon was one of the great psychological sci-fi parodies of the fifties. Freud’s vision of the unconscious dominated the period so in Lagoon some ‘scientists’, always portrayed as evil themselves, discover a black lagoon in the Brazilian jungles. The circular pool, of course, represents Freud’s vision of the unconscious in which demons and monsters lurk so the Creature, stirred up by the scientists, perhaps it may be read as psycho-analysts, emerges in all his horror dripping with weeds from the black lagoon. Coulda been me I thought as I sat watching.
So, Burroughs, Gysin, Ginsburg, Corso, Bacon, Lucien Freud,, Moraes, all the people a reasonable person would run from. No matter how attractive they may appear on the printed page they were much less so in person. I’ve met a few of them and, shall we say, I knew I would never fit in.
Marianne did fit in. She was beginning to reconcile her Braziers Park sexual education with her high Catholic teaching. Andy Warhol said if your life is not going as you like it, pretend it’s a movie. Marianne was in the unique position where she could live her myth in movies, on the stage and on phonograph records as well as in real life. In her mind she could make it work but real life upsets things once in a while. Plus Marianne in her reading read William Blake whose line ‘the road of excess leads to the palace of wisdom’ was the mantra of the whole junkie crowd as well as Marianne’s. Who would be seduced by bull shit like that? Beaudelaire, Rambeau and the French Symbolists also provided such like justification for the path she was on. Thus Marianne was able to justify her myth by such philosophy.
Marianne could thus justify sexual excesses, perhaps even prostitution, as drinking the cup to the dregs on the path to wisdom. At the same time she was able to split her personality in a Braziers/St. Joseph’ contrast so that she could remain ‘pure’ while sympathizing with the plight of all those unfortunate prostitutes she knew so well. That actually was a sort of Rich Kid Blues so Leander was perhaps more prescient than Marianne thought.
Marianne who had many acting offers during these years and at least one serious role with Roman Polanski all of which she blew ostensibly because of her heroin addiction but also possibly because as she felt so degraded she didn’t think she deserved success because of Redlands. At any rate she was the darling of the counter culture and remains so down and out or not.
Oliver Musker an old Etonian met her through Christopher Gibbs who paled with Bob Fraser at a party in 1972 so she wasn’t so incognito that she wasn’t attending parties. Still her addiction was obvious enough that Musker wanted to save her. Therefore he took control and put her in rehab. But what’s rehab to an addict? Perhaps a time out. Of course Marianne says Musker saved her life. Well, romance, romance, romance.
Musker was an apparent stable interlude in Marianne’s self-destructive course. He kept her on a more or less even keel for these two years. No less destitute than she had ever been Marianne accepted a role filmed in India titled Ghost Story. Not quite the hardship Marianne attests, indeed, very glamorous to anyone in her fan base and elsewhere.
She and Musker traveled to India and from there to Hong Kong. So she was leading a life many could envy. Not too much is available about Musker but he apparently found India congenial as a business opportunity. He currently runs a furniture factory out of Delhi.
But he was an overbearing, dominant sort enforcing his will with violence. He knocked out Marianne’s upper two front teeth. When he tried to manage Marianne’s career he became too much for her and they parted company. Or, perhaps, Musker was just a crutch to get her over a very rough patch. By 1974 perhaps she thought she no longer needed him.
And then as part of the road of excess leading to the palace of wisdom Musker was a type of male and as part of her identity she was to experiment with different types. That would lead to her future second husband Ben Brierly. The music scene about to transit the very destructive Punk era so, perhaps Marianne saw it as chance to revive her recording career.
As I see it Marianne went into shock after Redlands. The shame of the Mars bar bit was too much for her psyche to handle. The court’s denial of the chance to defend herself and possibly explain was an egregious insult that she could find no way to handle. This kind of shock takes time to digest and find some way to regain one’s composure. Thus Marianne’s life from that point to her suicide attempt in 1969 can be explained in that context.
Her rejection of Mick can largely be explained as the aftermath of Redlands.
Marianne had been used as sex object once she entered the record industry. It was a role she didn’t reject apparently being a hot mama. But as one matures one finds ways to use as well as be used. Thus after 1969 Marianne turned predator using her sexual desirability to turn predator herself.
She stayed with Lord Rossmore after leaving Mick while she used Musker to regain some balance although kicking heroin is just a mirage junkies pursue. One grows weary of their stories of becoming ‘clean.’ At best after Musker she discovered her limits although she really tested them.
While I don’t think it’s true, Marianne felt that Mick was a superior musician to herself. Marianne let the notion destroy her self-confidence. Jagger is no singer, has no voice, is a mediocre lyricist, can’t dance but is a great showman with a burning desire to corrupt society.
Marianne’s problem was that she couldn’t find the proper agent or musical guide. Issuing four albums in 1965 was a crass error for which she was apparently responsible. She took no time to enter the spirit of the songs while many of the backing arrangements are revolting. Nevertheless she was Marianne.
Having felt herself overshadowed by Mick she now picked the poor shlub Ben to musically dominate and overshadow in revenge on Mick. As she left Musker she was emerging from the horrible reaction to Redlands while finding a musical persona to allow her to go on living the pop life she had learned to appreciate.
In keeping with her newly found myth combined with the Blake/Symbolist fantasy of plumbing the depths in search of the pearl of great price she embraced Brierly’s punk life style living in squalor in desperate squats. During this period she was forming the persona that would emerge with her 1979 release of Broken English. That record reestablished her musical credentials while providing her with a substantial cash windfall. She might as well have worked for nothing as she took a 90K check and promptly blew it on clothes and drugs. In some ways Marianne was a real slow learner.
She was able to disburse her cash faster than Edie Sedgwick threw away her 80K inheritance. Edie had no hopes for another windfall although Marianne did.
Broken English was a boundary line between the middle Marianne and what came after.
Chapter IX will follow but I have other projects first.
December 15, 2012
Marianne Faithfull: The Faerie Queene Of The Sixties
Chaps. 3, 4,5
Of all the performers of the Rock era Mick Jagger and Paul McCartney have been the most successful while I would give the nod of most successful to Jagger. One must admire the way he learned the ropes and then used them to strangle others as he had been strangled. Mick in his own way was the Midnight Rambler and the Street Fighting Man. Don’t think I blame him; you either rule or are ruled. But, one does have to live with the reputation one creates.
Mick began cultivating his image from the beginning. As this story concerns Mick’s relationship to Marianne I will concentrate on aspects of their sexuality. Andrew Loog Oldham made a movie of the Stones’ January 1965 Irish tour. Unfortunately he sold the rights to it along with the Stones 1963-70 master recordings to Allen Klein along with, by the way, the first Marianne Faithfull masters. Klein then became the Stones’ manager.
The movie disappeared into Klein’s archives to surface in November 2012 when the Klein estate released it to DVD. It can now be purchased as I did. The DVD features both the Abkco edit and Oldham’s original Director’s Cut.
Mainly a concert film it also features group member interviews and Richards and Jagger cutting up. While they were horsing around they appear to improvise a song with the lyric: I’d rather be with the boys than here with a stupid girl like you.
While Jagger has always cultivated an ambiguous image he has also announced a record of having had sex with four thousand or more different girls. That’s only eighty per annum over fifty years so I imagine that shows an admirable restraint. Yet, at the same time Mick has always been misogynistic while always seeking to emasculate or squash his closer women under his thumb. In fact Mick probably has a domination or emasculation complex. He may have rather been with the boys but in his competition with them he sought to emasculate or squash them too. One of the favorite forms of emasculation and domination is to take other men’s women from them.
Thus when he took Jerry Hall from Bryan Ferry he quipped he had to do it to save her from going through life as Jerry Ferry. One winces when one reads of Eric Clapton begging Mick not to take Carla Bruni from him. Mick even took one of Eric’s temps, Catherine James from him.
Mick And Chrissie
When Mick first enters the scene for Andrew Oldham he is in an alley fighting it out with Chrissie Shrimpton, the model Jean Shrimpton’s younger sister. If one reads more deeply into that situation it shows a very cruel sadistic streak in Mick, quite shameful in a celebrity of Mick’s first magnitude of brightness.
Chrissie began the relationship as a strong willed girl battered by and battering Mick. In that day before the change in sexual mores girls weren’t quite so sexually open so Chrissie didn’t want her parents to know she was shacking up with Mick. They insisted to Mick that they not. As a humiliation tactic to break the girl down he let it be known to her parents that in his eyes she was little more than a common whore and she and they should see it that way too as he was in fact shacking with her.
Gradually the monster beat her down completely destroying her self-respect then, more than publicly, he broadcast his triumph on records and over the radio with such songs as Stupid Girl and Under My Thumb which their whole circle knew referred to her. Dylan would later use the same tactic against Edie Sedgwick when he wrote Like A Rolling Stone to break her down.
Both Chrissie and her parents believed Mick and she were to marry but having crushed her beneath his thumb, as it were, with a toss of his curly locks Mick sneeringly walked away adding insult to injury. Cruel in this instance it became psychotic with repeated use.
Years after word got back to Mick that Chrissie had a bundle of his letters, and, now this is unforgivable, without a word to her he immediately set his attorneys on her threatening an expensive law suit while demanding she return his letters. Even though Chrissie had not intended to publish them, still shaking this long after Mick’s brutal treatment, Chrissie without delay forwarded her letters from Mick to him. Shameful.
Mick And Marianne
Mick then turned his attentions to the Guinevere, the Ophelia, the Faerie Queene of pop music, our own Marianne. While I’m sure Mick was somewhat enamored with Marianne I’m also sure he had a couple ulterior motives. Marianne was married to John Dunbar at the time while living with Mick so Mick had the pleasure of emasculating and humiliating Dunbar.
At the same time I’m sure he was envious of Marianne’s fame which was probably greater than his at the time. No room in the spotlight for two. He couldn’t stand that Marianne was getting even more press than himself. Thus he undertook to destroy her career. In the process he emasculated her and humiliated her to an astounding degree.
Marianne and Mick were playing with psychologies in a very destructive manner. The events I am going to describe did incalculable damage to their psyches while altering the direction of their subsequent lives dramatically, especially Marianne’s. Of course, few people seem to realize they have a psychology or how it was formed, what expectations they devised. Those hopes and dreams were more especially dashed when they turned to drugs. That was certainly the case with Marianne.
I don’t know how seriously Marianne took her Medieval interest and reading but she was influenced by her Arthurian studies. Like the most or possibly rest of the generation she was also influenced quite heavily by Alice In Wonderland and Peter Pan, probably both books and movies.
The key for the generation in Peter Pan was his refusal to grow up or accept adulthood. It was quite fashionable at the time to pretend that you would always be young, keep in contact with your ‘inner child.’ I was a victim of the psychosis myself.
At any rate Marianne was influenced by all three. Thus, when she and Mick met she quizzed him extensively on his knowledge of King Arthur to see how much he knew as though that litmus test would seal his fate. Mick passed and Marianne moved in still married to John Dunbar. Thus her life clashed with her Catholic upbringing. At first Marianne had royalties coming in from her records enabling her to maintain a certain independence but gradually the royalty checks decreased making Marianne financially dependent on Mick.
At the same time Mick was under no obligations to Marianne and observed none. How this clashed with Marianne’s Arthurian expectations in an atmosphere of Peter Pan and Alice she doesn’t go into but there must have been a severe disappointment as Mick treated her as a mere possession.
While in California he was the object of desire for all the groupies including the doyenne Miss Pamela- Pamela Des Barres nee Miller- of Frank Zappa’s girl group the GTOs (Girls Totally Ornery or else in reference to the hottest car of the period, the GTO). Miss Pamela as well as the rest of the California groupies studied to come up with better and better more outrageous sexual thrills with which to astonish the boys in the band which easily surpassed the imaginations of the boys in the band including Mick.
Mick returned home and demanded of Marianne that she perform these tricks which astonished Marianne no less than Mick had been astonished. However she believed the tricks degrading. Marianne quite rightly refused to perform them.
But the repertoire of the boys in the band kept expanding so that the home girls were led to view new horizons. Group sex and that sort of thing became the norm.
As with all loosely knit movements or phenomena this sort of reputation brought more and more of the sado-masochistic libertine drug oriented element gradually forcing out the less inclined to sexual erotica just as bad money drives out good money. Rock and Roll became progressively more degenerate from 1964-65 on until it was disgraceful to be associated with it.
Mick and the Stones were leaders of this degeneration whether the Stones embraced sexual sado-masochism personally their public persona was based on it making them leading corruptors of youth and society in general. They did as much or more to change the sexual mores of the present than anyone. Their LP cover for Black and Blue was the apex of this very sado-masochistic misogynistic persona. The cover caused me all kinds of trouble in running my record store.
As one presents oneself so must one be.
The Redlands Bust.
Many psychologically devastating events happened to Marianne in the years from 1967-70. It is very difficult from this perspective to evaluate some of them. One can’t tell how Marianne’s renunciation of her career affected her mind. After all in 1964-65 and 66 she went from just another teenager to superb success far beyond her expectations financially, while becoming the female idol of the youth of England and a phenom in the US- ultimately the Faerie Queen of rock and roll. That’s really only two short years until the Redlands bust.
In those two years she passed through several sexual transmogrifications. She went from virgin to the most outre of sexual practices. Its all very well to say that this was her decision but as Paul McCartney said of his own experience in Miles’ biography it was impossible for him to resist peer pressure, especially in the use of drugs. He was ‘forced’ to try heroin even though he was dead set against.
So peer pressure on Marianne and any young girl to be sexual ‘free spirits’ was impossible unless you were prepared to accept group rejection. The same with drugs that couldn’t be resisted so that when depression set in she ended up addicted to the greatest depression drug available- heroin. It was up to Mick to give what protection he could. Regardless of current sexual nonsense it us up to the man to guide his woman.
Now, the era began in relatively clean-cut innocence . It was never quite so white bread as it is depicted, trying to escape the sleaziness, even then, was no easy matter. Then as the decade wore on it all got worse, then it got disgusting. First pot, pills and amphetamines, then LSD that came on like a hurricane. LSD more than anything else conditioned you for cocaine that in at the end of the decade, at least on the West Coast where I was. Remember that there was no national consensus in the US
In 1964 or so when the ‘counter-culture’ hit in the Bay Area it was a very local manifestation not shared by the East Coast the Mid-West or even for that matter LA. LA was never hip in the way the Bay Area was. While the Beatles are credited with introducing long hair, when the Charlatans came down from Virginia City they had hair and they must have been growing it long before the Mop Tops showed up.
The West Coast could not tolerate New York groups. Mafia outfits like the Rascals nee Young Rascals and Vanilla Fudge made the West Coast puke. There really wasn’t any place for The Velvet Underground either. Of course the British groups that had their own sound that really couldn’t compete with that of say, The Doors, an LA group. The LA groups being more commercially oriented pretty much shoved the Bay Area groups aside, although were a couple of real successes. I don’t include freak groups like the Grateful Dead as commercial successes. Cults are cults.
But to the point, boy, LSD. Owsley Stanley kept the West supplied and how. By the time of Altamont and Stonewall the atmosphere was really foul. And then it got worse still.
About the time of the Redlands bust society and the police were losing their patience. Kesey and Leary had them terrified. The drug thing kept growing. When one says that marijuana was generational it is true only to the extent that a significant minority of the generation smoked it. The hippies were only a small and despised part of the generation but they, we, made a lot of noise and got a lot of notice. Without the radio, rock and corrupt record companies the Movement probably wouldn’t have broken the bounds of Bohemia. But, the time was ripe for the Bohemian conquest of America. That was led from New York, principally by Andy Warhol.
The records made the Bohemian life seem very glamorous. Thus the cops focused on groups where actually the greatest drug activity was located and the propaganda the strongest. As the groups began to make good and even big, very big, money they were the natural prey of the drug dealers. And don’t underestimate the role of LSD. The groups also chose to flaunt their drug use- ‘I’ve got to be free to put anything into my body and life I want to’, disdaining the law, the police and actually common decency. This was the case with the Stones and it’s the flaunting, not the use, that got them in trouble.
In 1967 they naturally were set up. Brian Jones in an interview, barroom chat actually, with News Of The World reporters boasted of his drug use. The journalists then attributed the statements to Mick, whether from ignorance or design I leave to your imagination.
When Mick read the article he was indignant. As I said, while Mick and the rockers thought they were big because of records, radio and TV they were actually socially marginal and not particularly appreciated. Musicians get no respect outside their own circle.
Rather than evaluate his situation, considering that he was doing drugs and everyone knew it thus making him an obvious target, he foolishly brought suit against the newspaper. You don’t have to be brilliant to know News Of The World wasn’t going to let that one fly. Hey! Hey! What’d I say! Mick was sleeping or day dreaming.
The police wanted to get England’s bad boys anyway. There may or may not have been collusion between the News Of The World and the police but the way the raid was conducted indicates there was.
Shortly before the bust some guy named Schneiderman drops from the sky with a brief case reportedly filled with whatever you required. Mick, Marianne and Keith and a couple others, I will mention in the next section, were having an LSD weekend at Keith’s house, the Redlands. Schneiderman insinuated himself into the party with his briefcase while probably being in the employ of the News informed them and they in turn notified the police.
For Schneiderman allegedly having a briefcase full of drugs there were remarkably few drugs in evidence at the bust. Jagger was booked only for possession of four pep pills bought legally in Italy, while Keith had no drug charges at all except for being charged with ‘knowingly’ providing a place where pot was smoked. Robert Fraser actually had heroin jacks of his own on him but Schneiderman produced nothing from his briefcase and indeed no drugs were visible in it when the police required him to open it. No drugs were seen only packaging that were assumed to contain drugs by the Bohemians. In any event he hopped the first flight to elsewhere.
While Marianne had no drugs concealed on her person her situation was the most tragic of all. The Faerie Queen would lose her official status.
When the cops came calling the crowd was of course flipped out on LSD but then that was always the danger; the cops would come calling when you’re least prepared to deal with them. Come on, this was just one of the hazards of using illegal substances. And naturally, you tend to be flippant, wise cracking and mocking. Very bad behavior in such a situation when maximum seriousness is the order of the moment. It’s not like everyone didn’t live in fear of being busted. They used to call it deep paranoia.
Marianne whose clothes had become wet from walking in the rain laid them out to dry dressing in nothing more than some sort of rug wrapped around her. Well, what is one to think of a nude woman amongst a bunch of men; what is this Dejeuner Sur L’herbe redux? Even if two thirds of them were screaming fairies as they were, how is one to know that and what to think?
It was said that Marianne let her wrap slip giving the coppers an eyeful. Of course the cops were square and the gang was hip but squares outnumber hips by a very large margin while as Roger Miller sings: Squares make the world go round. And a good thing too. Roger said that hips have too much water for their land; this was a gathering of pretty watery people. Oh, OK, my people, but folks you have to be realistic. That’s what hip means in my book.
And then someone probably at News Of The World concocted the story that Marianne had a Mars bar slipped between her legs and that Mick was grazing away at it. Preposterous, wouldn’t you think? Boy, now that was a blow that will getcha and you’ll be down for a long time too. As might be expected Marianne was devastated. Boy, that opened a lot of anfractuosities in her brain. A hit like two trains running in opposite directions at top speed on the same tracks over a two hundred foot high trestle. That’s a big crash and a long way to tumble, buddy.
It ended any hope Marianne may have had of appearing on a stage. Can you imagine stepping up to the microphone and being showered with Mars bars. Oh no, no,no, better to board a rocket ship for…oops…Mars.
Marianne and Mick may have thought they were handling it well but the bile and psycho-somatic reactions entering the sub-conscious aren’t so easily dismissed. This horror was merely added to their childhood fixations.
In the turmoil of the months succeeding this mind wrenching event fixations would only worsen. Of course the intent of the establishment was not so much to succeed in jailing them but making an example of them while hopefully destroying their careers. The bust should have been career destroying but for the generational gap. When a teacher chastises a student the other students smirk but don’t disown him. After busting Mick and Keith the establishment then went after the more fragile Brian Jones, the guy who got this whole thing rolling by shooting off his mouth. If the three could have been jailed they wouldn’t subsequently have been allowed to enter the US or so it seemed. No one could have forecast the incredible changes that were about to occur that essentially placed the Stones above the law.
Enter Donald Cammell And His Movie Performance
One reads many amusing reasons for the incredible social disintegration of the sixties. One of the most preposterous to come to my attention is the notion that it was caused by lead poisoning.. There’s a hobby horse for you. While I couldn’t rule it out I think lead poisoning would be among the most obscure of reasons. No, the sixties was no more an aberration than was Hitler’s Germany; like the latter it was the result of long historical development, a part of psychological history.
If one reads a good deal with the purpose of understanding the historical background of the sixties things begin to take form. Then if one tries to make one’s intellect rise and float over the information gleaned from that reading patterns will form, a map of the past will appear. Then of course one notes nodes and axons, connections that require further reading and rereading what’s already been read so that a fair approximation of what happened can be more or less confidently stated. Much of it will be subterranean history that doesn’t make it to the history books.
Such is the psycho-sexual mind set that began to develop oh, say, about from 1890 on which a key node was from 1900 to 1920. Western understanding of the human mind developed fairly rapidly from the mid-eighteenth century rapidly gaining momentum after say 1860 and the spectacular doings at Paris’ Salpetriere mental hospital under the tutelage of the amazing Dr. Jean-Martin Charcot.
While his investigations were of a psycho-sexual nature they were not perceived as such except perhaps by a transient student by the name of Sigmund Freud. Sometime after Charcot’s studies toward the nineties people calling themselves sexologists, sex therapists and sex magicians began to appear.
Along with Freud who might be called a sex therapist two leading figures slightly earlier than he were the German Richard von Krafft-Ebing (1840-1902) and the Englishman Havelock Ellis (1859-1939). In the academic scientific or pseudo-scientific manner all three made their contributions although Freud managed to incorporate their discoveries or understandings into his system acquiring preeminence in the field.
Goerg Groddeck and Wilhelm Reich, two of Freud’s disciples also gained prominence in the sex therapist field.
On the religious or supernatural side the most prominent and influential of the sex magicians was the so-called Magus Aleister Crowley and his organization of the Golden Dawn.
With the exception of Krafft-Ebing all were out to overturn European sexual mores, designated disparagingly as Victorian. Of course there was never a time when men and women didn’t behave sexually because…well, how could they? The real goal then was to disturb prevailing sexual mores and replace them with sexual license. This essentially came to fruition in the 1960s when the influence of Freud and Crowley were at their peak. The two principal cultural nodes of the US, New York and Los Angeles, were flooded with European Jewish émigrés of the Freudian school while Aleister Crowley had established himself and his Golden Dawn in Los Angeles.
The corrosive sexual mores of Freud and Crowley were aided and abetted by the rise of the equally corrosive drug use and, of course, ‘lead poisoning.’
Our next object then is to discover who Donald Cammel might be.
Searching For Donald
Cammell is the central figure in this little drama so we will begin with him although even though the Stones biographers don’t delve into these other characters they are integral to the social scene of Mick, Marianne and Keith. It appears that Brian Jones, Bill Wyman and Charlie Watts served a peripherals to Mick primarily and Mick and Keith secondarily. Oldham tried to make himself a third but apparently was incompatible or other interests pulled him in a different direction. By ‘67 he would be out of the picture.
In Marianne’s biography she makes it sound like Cammell was a stranger to the group while actually he was well known to Bob Fraser, and Chrissie Gibbs who were at the Redlands bust and quite familiar with Mick, Keith and Marianne. They all knew each other before the movie began to be filmed.
Cammell was older than the three being contemporary with the first generations of rockers; he was born in 1934 in Scotland. He came from a well to do family immersed in the occult; his father actually knew Aleister Crowley and wrote a biography of him. One may then assume that his father was something of a sex magician as Marianne’s father was a sexologist. It was impossible to escape Freudian influences from at least 1920 through the fifties. So some reference to repression and the unconscious is inevitable.
Cammell’s father was likely familiar with Krafft-Ebing’s Psychopathia Sexualis with its emphasis on psychotic sexual practices. All the sexologists and magicians immersed themselves in bizarre sexual practices. If a reader counters that all sex is legitimate it shows how perverted he or she is. No argument from me, we know where each other stands.
As Cammell was born in ‘34, in ‘44 he would have been 10 and 20 in 1954. Thus he would have been aware of the war between the ages of 4, 5, 6, or so and 10 but perhaps in a muddled and uncomprehending manner but in ‘44 and ‘45 he would have been aware enough to partially comprehend. Certainly when the Big Baby turned Hiroshima to ashes in August of ‘45 something would have registered affecting his mind and outlook.
I was 7 in ‘45 and while I have a clear remembrance of VE Day I don’t have any recollection at all of the Bomb or if I do it had little or no significance to me. I have never had a horror of the A-bomb.
Obviously something other than lead poisoning affected the psyches of the crop of kids from ‘33-’34 to 1942-43. It may have had something to do with the total destruction of the world capped by the Bomb. What a terrific exclamation mark to the end of hostilities. What Cammell’s reaction to this destruction was isn’t clear to me while it probably wasn’t clear to himself.
After the war he experienced rationing during the whole of his teen years. He was probably less affected than others as he became prosperous in his teens on his own as a painter. He was successful as a portrait painter. From the pictures I’ve seen he was more than talented while possibly possessing genius. His mind already exhibited an extreme darkness with sexual confusion easily perceived.
Much of the following information comes from web sites such as the fabulous Another Nickel In The Machine that records the history of London, Sam Umland’s 60X50 and many others. I have not read Umland’s biography of Cammell as yet.
Cammell divorced his first wife and then married a very successful model, the American Deborah Dixon, moving to Paris where they both lived. Cammell apparently was supported by his wife.
Bored with painting, not unlike Andy Warhol, he began to take an interest in film. There is nothing like a movie to exhibit one’s sexual fantasies in real life; indeed a movie is a record of the unconscious. Cammell and Dixon were sexually compatible taking an interest in anything remotely copulatory. Cammell’s first few attempts at filmmaking were not successful or, at least, lacked box office magic.
Along with his lack of interest in painting and his attraction to the movies Cammell gravitated toward the pop world of rock and roll seeking out Jagger. Where was a sexual degenerate to turn? The bad boys of Rock, the Rolling Stones, Mick, Keith and Marianne at least. He found Mick and Marianne’s talked about sexual escapades irresistible. He was undoubtedly attracted by Mick’s dope legend also. Mick claims not to have been an excessive user of drugs, which may be true but I doubt there was anyone at the time who didn’t think he was a heroin addict and druggie par excellence.
As an artist Cammell was acquainted with Bob Fraser and that pop art crowd. Both he and Fraser were known to the infamous crime lords, the Kray Brothers. The Krays, of course, were homosexuals as were Fraser and Gibbs. Mick’s legend is that he is bi-sexual, at least, so there is no reason that he wasn’t sexually involved with the bunch in some manner.
Cammell and Fraser also knew the Satanist and sex magician, the American experimental film maker, Kenneth Anger, as did Mick and Marianne. Fraser introduced Anger to the underground film crowd.
In addition Anita Pallenberg knew Cammell from her pre-Brian Jones, Keith Richard days. She was shown the script in the south of France the year before filming began. So, unless I have seriously misread Marianne’s first auto-biography, Cammell didn’t just show up one day with a movie proposal; it was actually old home week.
Cammell did go on to make an additional three or four movies of which I have seen two, Demon Seed and Wild Side. The last movie has escaped my vigilance so far. Wild Side is a virtual remake or variation of Performance. Demon Seed that I will review in an addendum to Chapter 5 is actually a great movie handling a major sci-fi them to perfection.
Just prior to the beginning of filming in 1968 Mick impregnated Marianne. This is 1968 and if Marianne hadn’t been on the Pill she would have had a number of children now in addition to Nicholas her child by John Dunbar. The question then is why she allowed herself to get pregnant at this time. She was still married to Dunbar so one must think he must have suffered humiliation and emasculation to have another man impregnate his wife. Perhaps Mick’s emasculation genes or maybe just a drug haze.
At any rate Marianne was exiled to Ireland while filming was going on. One can only imagine the anxiety she felt separated from her lover in her condition. One doesn’t have to imagine; she suffered a miscarriage.
In 1967 the English director John Boorman had filmed a movie that took
Cammell’s mind by storm. The movie was Point Blank starring Lee Marvin as the protagonist Walker. Cammell recommended that all the cast see the move and bear it in mind. It might be advantageous to review the movie here.
Point Blank was only Boorman’s second effort. Unsuccessful on release it has apparently become a cult classic. His movie is obviously a dream sequence or nightmare. Nothing is real. This indicated by the hero’s name of Walker. He has only one name, no first. No one even knows what his first name could be. The name seemed significant to me but I hadn’t a clue as to what it could mean. Well, you know, when the student is ready the teacher will appear. While writing this piece I was also reading Denis Machail’s 1941 biography of J.M. Barrie, the author of Peter Pan. There on page 190 was the explanation of Walker. Barrie had written a play titled Walker, London. That was a telegraphic address. Quote:
Two impudent jokes in one, the second even more mysterious then as it is now. For the word ‘Walker’ is still in the dictionary- “interjection (slang) expressing incredulity and suspicion of being hoaxed” but when was it last used? Not during the present century, one would say; yet before that there was a time when it was the very crystalization of Cockney humor. “Walker!” you said, to show that you could never be caught with chaff. It was the standard answer to the attempted leg pull. It was also one of those blessed with with which any comedian could bring down the house.
So now the viewer knows he is being hoaxed and can suspend belief. The plot involves Lee Marvin as Walker who takes part in a heist then is shot by his partner who runs off with Walker’s share or 93,000 and adding insult to injury Walker’s wife. The rest of the story involves Walker trying to retrieve his money forget the wife. The story is told through a series of frustrations to a paranoid Walker. So, we have a dream study of a frustrated paranoid.
The opening and closing settings are the same; the walking or exercise area inside Alcatraz prison. The joke seemingly being that one walks around and around, never getting anywhere while returning to the same place. Cry “Walker” and then start laughing like a Cockney at the joke.
Alcatraz, the Rock, is of course a small island in the middle of San Francisco Bay between the Golden Gate and the Bay Bridge. Established in 1934 it was closed in 1963, so the filming was done in a closed facility and before the Indians occupied the island claiming it as their heritage. The filming was done, then, in vacated premises.
As a dream story it concerns the psychic life of Walker. It’s all going on inside his head. The prison, castle or house represents the psychic the self so that Walker lives a bleak, barren, paranoid inner life.
A helicopter lands in the enclosure, picks up a package and leaves a bundle of money. Walker and his pal Mal (mal, French for bad) kill the messenger while robbing him. Walker is then examining an empty cell signifying his empty life when Mal with Walker’s wife looking on puts a couple bullets in him leaving him for dead while appropriating Walker’s share of the money and his wife. Thus we have some basic paranoia that, of course, might possibly be true. As his wife would say later, Walker just kind of left her cold.
Left for dead Walker somehow recovers while being compelled to take the only way off the island available to him- swim for it. Another grim joke as legend has it that no one who tried ever succeeded.
The rest of the story concerns surmounting the treachery and double crosses Walker encounters in trying to recover his money. He finds his wife, abandons her and takes up with her sister. While he seems a little obsessive-compulsive in the matter, the money in fact represents his lost identity, purpose in life or masculinity. The recovery of the money is central for his personality.
As in the Cockney joke whenever he shows up people exclaim “Walker!” If you’re in on the joke it might be funny. Angie Dickenson makes up the sex interest as Chris as there is no love interest. Just a four letter word in this movie. The three kingpins Walker must knock down are Carter, Brewster and Fairfax. Ironically Carter and Brewster are disposed of by their own team when Walker’s paranoia protects him while the others take the hit meant for him.
The actual climax takes place in Brewster’s house when Walker and Chris have spent the night together, the only consummated sex in the movie. As Walker is walking out the door Chris asks what her last name is. Walker doesn’t know and neither do we. Walker counters, seemingly weakly, does she know his first name. Either check mate or an uproarious joke to Cockneys. But as Walker in joke is a hoax or a put on then it doesn’t matter anyway. Dreams are like that, they follow a different logic than the waking mind.
The denouement returns to the opening at Alcatraz but now Walker is more canny staying out if sight. The drop is made, Brewster calls to him to come get the money. But, as when Walker was supposed to get the money from Carter, after he survived the assassination attempt, the bundle proved to be waste paper, Walker’s paranoia saves him again. A shot rings out and Brewster takes a long walk off a short pier never to return again. Now enter Fairfax who is the head man and the assassin who shot Carter and Brewster and would have shot Walker. Fairfax shouts Walker several times that in another century would have brought the house down.
Walker’s paranoia prevents him from taking what might be money in the bundle but is probably waste paper so that as the bundle of funny paper represents his ego he is left stranded in the haunted empty house of Alcatraz representing his mind for one presumes the rest of his life.
The movie was a box office failure, except for the few like Cammell but holds up well as a psychological thriller. That is what Cammell saw. So, now, he’s basing his own movie ‘Performance’ directly on Point Blank.
He gathers together essentially the ‘gang’ to make his movie. Even Deborah Dixon took part. He already knew and was friends with James Fox as was apparently Mick, cast as the criminal Chas. Cammell had known Anita Pallenberg in Paris where it is said she formed a brief menage a trois with Cammel and Deborah. Chrissie Gibbs was the set designer…Mick was an old friend, a few outsiders and Cammel had his movie.
Mick sent Marianne to Ireland for the duration. Keith who was shacking with Anita was so unhappy about Cammell’s pairing of Anita with Mick that he found it impossible to visit the set. Instead he brooded outside in his car sending Bob Fraser in to keep tabs until Cammell banned him from the set.
I can’t be sure that Cammell understood the Cockney meaning of Walker but he so admired the character that he based Mick’s role on Walker giving Mick the single name of Turner. No first name. Turner is also meant to be significant. A turner is a sort of acrobat. The word could also be used in the sense of changeling, or perhaps in the homosexual sense or turning a man gay. Turner does turn Chas. from a tough guy to a passive fairy, his sort of changeling. Turner changes the tough hoods into faggots. Probably then that is the meaning of the name. So maybe Cammell was in on the Walker joke.
As the movie is permeated by sex magic and sex as a sort of therapy the influence of Krafft-Ebing, Ellis, Freud and especially Aleister Crowley is very apparent. Kenneth Anger was around at the time while being known to all the participants thus reinforcing the Crowley connection.
All the sex therapists were concerned with aberrant sexual practices that the movie concentrates on. Cammell elaborates the sexual implications of Boorman’s Point Blank, while the decaying mansion obviously represent Cammell’s mind. In the end the sex therapy or magick doesn’t seem to work as Turner turns suicidal obsessed with a death wish.
Boorman’s crime angle comes in through Chas. In order for Fox to appear authentic Cammell actually required him to live the criminal life under the tutelage of a mobster, even to the extent of taking part in actual crimes. Of course, madness is the theme of the movie but even madness can go too far.
Chas. has offended the criminal chief, based on the Kray Bros., who has commanded a man hunt to track Chas. down. When he is located he is summoned to his execution. Turner says: Don’t leave me, take me where you’re going. Chas. says ‘You don’t want to go where I’m going.’ Turner: ‘Yes I do.’ Chas. then blows Turner’s head off, gets into the car and the car drives off, as he looks out the window we see Turners face. Thus the turning or change is complete as each becomes the other.
The version now available for purchase or rental is apparently much different from the original. While even the available version is violent and pornographic the original must have anticipated the current pornographic output of Hollywood . While I wouldn’t call Performance tame almost every movie you see today is as or more explicit. At any rate the movie has no redeeming moral value. If you want porn plain and simple, there it is.
The legend has it that the movie changed the lives of the participants. Perhaps so, but perhaps not. Michele Breton was already a lost child and stayed lost. Anita, no stranger to drugs moved into intense familiarity. James Fox, who was criminally mistreated by Cammell, gave up movies for ten years but he says he was already fed up with the seedy side of movie making so perhaps Performance just capped it. Keith? God, what can you say? Who was going to keep him from drugs? If Cammell was already inclined toward suicide he topped himself off in 1996 finally taking Keith’s advice.
But, now, Mick and Marianne. Mick was advised to play himself but Marianne wisely overruled that advice perhaps saving Mick’s sanity but still leaving him off balance. Marianne advised him to adopt some of the fey characteristics of Brian Jones’ character along with some of Keith’s tough guy stance. Not too difficult as that is the way Mick already appeared but it permanently shifted his personality in that skew. Nevertheless Mick has always remained supremely functional.
As to Marianne, how did she relate to Mick’s rejection of her by sending her to Ireland and the subsequent miscarriage of her child. That is a lot of psychological battering. I think that it is certain that as 1968 progressed she was already in a depression and sinking rapidly. While she was able to hold on for another year or so, by 1969 she would be spinning out of control as further events tested the strength of her mind.
The True Story Of John Lennon’s Final Years
Review by R.E. Prindle
Green, John: Dakota Days- The True Story Of John Lennon’s Final Years, St. Martin’s Press, 1983
The book should perhaps be subtitled: A True Story. John Green has crafted very nice portraits here of Yoko Ono and John Lennon, especially that of Yoko. She was very superstitious being dedicated to the occult from witchcraft to Japanese numerology to Tarot readings. It was the last that brought Green within her ken. She not only wanted a reading of the Tarot cards but she kept Green hopping day and night giving her readings on whatever little problem that pressed her mind. So for six years Green made a very good living reading for John and Yoko while developing a profound familiarity with their characters; in other words, he knows whereof he speaks.
Neither he nor the Japanese numerologist who he mever met were the only occultists Yoko was consulting but Green seems to have been unaware of the others. He is very careful and doesn’t overstep the bounds of what he knows first hand. There was a great deal that Green wasn’t privy to making this A rather than The true story.
While I know that many people know what the Tarot is I will give an explanation for those who don’t. While I don’t participate in Tarot myself I do have a deck of cards on hand to study for historical reasons.
The Tarot is a deck of 78 cards of some psychological subtlety. It arose as a means to preserve the Egyptian religion when after the various invasions of the first millennium BC the matrix of the religion was shattered. The Tarot was devised as a means of perpetuating the religion. The various spreads of cards provide means of interpreting responses to a problem.
Over the centuries many different decks have evolved representing various time periods. I have the Egyptian deck. It would be
interesting to know which deck Green used. He fails to tell us.
To be able to read well one must have an implicit understanding of each of the cards as well as being a subtle enough psychologist to apply the meanings to he or she for whom you read. Green apparently had both qualifications. Thus over thousands of readings over the six years he became very familiar with the characters and personalities of his subjects John and Yoko. Still, they seem to have been very successful in letting him know only what they wanted him to know.
As he apparently didn’t take notes, limiting in itself, he relies on his memory and familiarity with the Ono’s mental processes to reconstruct a continuum of the six years. While one may question the veracity of his method he seems to capture the mental and vocal traits of both John and Yoko. I have no trouble accepting the portraits while as the details can be corroborated elsewhere I see no reason to question Green’s general accuracy. Otherwise there is no one who doesn’t make mistakes in fact or interpretation.
His two portraits while revealing conflict with other accounts such as that of May Pang or Fred Seaman the obvious reason is that
the Onos are only letting him see what they want him to see. For instance, in their 1980 interview the Onos state that Yoko had brought the estate up to 150 million dollars yet Green has Yoko spending so fast that they are always on the brink of insolvency. At times expenditures seem to exceed cash on hand.
Green believes himself to be their only investment advisor but that isn’t the case. Just as Yoko had her Japanese numerologist who Green didn’t come into contact with and other occult advisors she must have had other financial advisors.
The picture Green paints of Yoko is far from pretty while he never openly denigrates her yet as he creates his layers of detail she not only becomes but goes beyond eccentric. Her dependence on the occult is such that when someone advised her of a ‘genuine’ witch in Colombia she dragged Green along on the trip to South America to visit the woman. Always lavish in her expenditures, she gave one medium a blank check for her to fill out, she gave this woman 60,000 dollars for her ministrations. When Green protested that the woman had meant pesetas rather than dollars Yoko was unfazed.
Thus while Yoko denied any dependence on John she only was able to realize her vision of herself through the former Beatle’s wealth and influence.
This was no more evident than in Yoko’s competition with her mother. For two successive summers John and Yoko visited Japan. According to Yoko the intent was to establish some rapport so that her son Sean wouldn’t be cut out of the family fortune that was considerable. The trips were conducted on such an extravagant scale that according to Green the Onos were cash poor as a result. Nevertheless Yoko went on spending so either they had funds of which Green knew nothing or they got money from somewhere.
The fact that they always seemed to have enough cash to do anything from spending a few millions on dairy farms and cows to Japanese vacations that it seems strange that when they received an extortion attempt for 200,000 dollars Yoko said they had no money. The extortion attempt seems to have been a protection racket- pay and live or go the police and die. As the extortioners told Yoko that if she went to the cops they would only protect her for a while. When they left whether a year or two later the extortioners would strike.
The Onos refused to comply calling in the FBI. The FBI advised them to substitute newspaper for money and they would arrest the pickup man. Strangely the pick up man was able to elude the FBI. And then two years or so later Lennon was hit by exploding bullets and killed on his doorstep. While one cannot say the two events are connected yet the assassination followed the extortionists plans. Chapman did make a stop to speak to an unidentified party before he pulled the trigger. But nothing is clear.
Yoko first contacted Green during Lennon’s ‘Lost Weekend.’ While Lennon believed, and it seems clear, that Yoko had informants watching John while he was in LA, Green has her denying this saying that it was his card readings that kept her informed of John’s doings. In all likelihood she checked her spies’ information against his readings.
From ’75 to ’80 Lennon was in a severe depression being unable or unwilling to function in a normal way. Of course there was no reason for him to act ‘normal’ as he was able to deal with his funk in his own way. Who is there to say that ‘normal’ was better? As he told Green his muse had left him leaving him unable to write. As he said, call it writer’s block or whatever, he couldn’t work. Enough reason for depression in an artist.
Then in 1980 when he came out of it being again able to write, Yoko in her desperate attempt to be his equal insisted on being part of the new record she called Double Fantasy. John adamantly refused to let her perform on his own tracks while she didn’t want her tracks all on one side for fear that no one would listen to side B, so they alternated tracks.
Thus, even though Yoko insisted that she was the most talented artistically and musically of the two she was forced to hitch her wagon to John’s star.
I found Green’s treatment of Lennon to be more sympathetic than his treatment of Yoko. The inevitable conclusion one comes to about Yoko is that at best she was a pathetic human being while at worst an obsessive-compulsive and a dangerous one at that.
The portrait he depicted of John is that of a man with a completely disintegrated personality entering the mid-life crisis. During this five year period he begins a process of reintegration. Actually his course is that of the mythological hero who experiences his ‘madness’ at this period of the mid-life crisis.
During this period Lennon is essentially egoless. Part of Timothy Leary’s LSD mantra was that one should abandon the ego. Of course to abandon the ego leaves one defenseless and a prey to sharpers who use their ego only too well, nevertheless Lennon bought in and abandoned his ego, or so he says. As he abdicated his identity to the use of Yoko Ono this was obviously the case.
So, he allowed himself to be manipulated by Yoko spending long periods of months over years ruminating naked in his bed, totally exposed as it were protected only by the good will of Yoko. Then, for whatever ulterior motive, Yoko sent John on a solo trip around the world. This was her mistake.
While in Macau, China Lennon had an epiphany in his hotel room. This is a fairly common one but self-revelatory. One might name it the peeling of the onion. In Lennon’s case he obviously felt that he had multiple personalities acquired through various traumatic events in his life.
As he described it to Green he was in his hotel room when he succeeded in peeling a layer of the onion, a personality, off which appeared as real and visible to him as shirt or a suit of clothes. He draped the personality over a chair then began to peel off layer after layer hanging them about the room or draping them over the furniture. When he awoke the next morning he could see them just where he put them. He then conceived the notion of leaving them there as he ran away from their influence.
This is a beautiful little fantasy. But then he turned the corner and there was oneof his selves waiting for him. Visualize the Rock And Roll cover and I think you begin to have it. He then realized he couldn’t escape in that fashion so he went back to his hotel and said ‘C’mon’ to his personalities and continued on his journey. However having identified his ‘problems’ by name, as it were, the seeds for resolving those problems had been sown.
He then returned to the Dakota and while he confined himself to his room rather than merely sinking into depression he began working through those layers of fixations or depression gradually recovering his muse and removing his writer’s block enabling him to compose again.
It would seem that Yoko preferred John psychologically incapacitated so that she could either control him or make herself believe that she was the more talented. Green notes that as John improved Yoko seemed to deteriorate. He quotes her as saying that she had heard some of John’s new songs and they were not very good while hers were.
Dissociated from reality as she was then she couldn’t let John record an LP of songs that might be a hit while anything she recorded on her own would be relegated to the garbage. She even refused to record one side all John and one side all her for fear that no one would listen to her side so she demanded they alternate tracks. I presume that is one reason the LP is entitled Double Fantasy.
While Yoko actually believed in the Tarot and her Japanese numerology, witchcraft and whatever John intelligently disregarded the occult aspects while he might have seen the utility of the Egyptian religous aspects to reveal character and motivation. In fact the innumerable readings of the Tarot might have led up to the revelatory epiphany in China and hence the lifting of his depression.
If that were the case then there would have been little difference between the Egyptian system of Tarot and psychoanalysis. But, as I say, I have no idea of which deck Green was using although the principle remains the same.
After having been on 24/7 call for six years as the Onos moved into what seems to have been a new phase Green lost his usefulness to Yoko sitting by a phone that never rang.
Green had succeeded too well. As he has John explain to him when Yoko first employed him she set him seven tasks. He had successfully completed all seven being now redundant. While John promised to look out for him, of course events eliminated any such possibility.
Regardless of whether the Ono Lennons were the subject of Green’s book I found the whole concept interesting. I like the way Green told his story, his tone and his outlook. His telling made me take an interest in himself. Unfortunately his name being so common makes it too difficult to search out anything of his subsequent career other than he moved to Washington DC.
Perhaps he could write a sequel to Dakota Days from another angle and with more detail. Pressing issues might not be so pressing now. I’d be interested.
February 11, 2010
Exhuming Bob 24: Bob And Expecting Rain
…or else they’re expecting rain.
My recent essay Exhuming Bob 23a: Bob, Andy, Edie And Like A Rolling Stone posted on the Expecting Rain site drew a few comments. As I’ve been excluded from the site I was very surprised to find the site published the essay. I’m not going to sign up for the discussion board so I’ll respond in this way. If it gets posted, fine.
I consider Exhuming Bob 23a a pretty good piece of scholarship so I’m pleased to have elicited a response that wasn’t all that negative.
The chief criticism came from CL Floyd so I’ll concentrate on his. Some of Floyd’s objections I consider worth answereing but some I find curious.
Floyd began his criticism: this is an incredible piece of reductionism… Yeah? What’s the problem? One has to begin somewhere. Dylan has said that he had this 20 pages of ”vomit’ tentatively titled Like A Rolling Stone. Right on. So he’s got twenty pages of inchoate kvetching that Edie Sedgwick catalyzed into several verses that while it applied directly to her as a symbol, what it symbolized was ‘this pain in here’ that centered around Dylan’s childhood. Thus as Warren Peace perceived, even though the central kvetch precedes Sedgwick the context centers directly on her person.
Floyd relates the whole to the title: ‘I especially enjoyed the in depth analysis of where the use of the phrase “rolling stone” came from.’ Muddy Waters had nothing to do with it. I doubt if Dylan had even heard of Waters’ song before he came to NYC if he did then.
The meaning of the phrase ‘a rolling stone gathers no moss’ is obvious while its use must go back very, very far. Apparently Dylan thinks being a rolling stone is a curse too hard to bear. His own understanding of the term goes back to Hank Williams’ not Muddy Waters’ song ‘Lost Highway.’
I’m just a rolling stone
All alone and lost
For a life of sin
I have paid the cost…
I’m just a rolling stone
On the lost highway.
I don’t mean to be rude but there were millions of us who related to Williams’ lyric in exactly the same way as Dylan.
But Floyd seems especially offended by the twist given to the meaning by my correspondent, Robin Mark. She has thought about the problem for some time. She realized that Stone was his mother’s maiden name so that there was a double entendre in Beattie Stone and a rolling (Bob) stone. Now, Mr. Floyd (or Miss, perhaps, CL is indeterminate) is apparently unaware that one can only be considered Jewish through the female side. If your father is Jewish and your mother isn’t then you are not a Jew, thus Jewishness is matrilineal not patrilineal even though your Jewish name may be Moishe Ben Avram- that is Moses the son of Abram. So, Dylan can claim the Stone name also. I thought it was a clever application and a neat double entendre.
Now, a major concern of my writing is to place Dylan within a context of his place and time. Shelton, Heylin, Sounes and others have done an excellent job of organizing the details of Dylan’s career to the exclusion of the other participants such as, for instance, Albert Grossman.
As Peter Yarrow says, without Grossman there would be no PPM and no Dylan. I have always been mystified as to who Grossman’s connections were that allowed him to finance the organization of PPM and get them a WB contract without a single performance.
I broached this subject in my essay, Exhuming Bob XVII My Son The Corporation. Since then I have learned that Grossman was aligned with Mo Ostin of WB and that the financing came from that quarter. That the group was immediately successful must have been gratifying. With the success of PPM the promotiuon of Dylan became possible. https://idynamo.wordpress.com/2008/12/10/exhuming-bob-xviii-bob-dylan-my-son-the-corporation/
That’s a start.
Mr. Floyd finds it coincidental that the key participants are Jewish. He apparently does not recognize a Jewish cultural and political influence directed to the realization of Jewish ends. If he’s complicit, so be it, but as an historian I have an obligation to note motivations from whatever quarter they come from. You don’t need a weatherman to tell which way the wind blows. I have no sacred cows and that is as it should be.
And finally, I believe that I have uncovered or illuminated, take your choice, a signficant and important sub-text of Dylan’s history. I dig the term ‘NY gossip’ that Mr. Floyd uses to discredit the facts. In point fact, David Bourdon who was there gives an almost gang like division of NYC. As he saw it Dylan was ‘pope’ of Downtown, Warhol ‘pope’ of mid-town and something vague uptown.
After BOnB in mid ’66 Dylan hadn’t abandoned Manhattan. The motorcycle accident with concussion and three cracked vertebrae changed his plans. After he had healed he in fact moved back to MacDougal St. to begin having his garbage searched by Weberman. By then the sixties were essentially over. Warhol was shot in ’69 changing the direction of his career, while Altamont put the period to the whole sixties fantasy. Shortly Dylan would be releasing an album called New Morning. Optimistic.
So, I certainly appreciate the kind attention of those who commented. If Matchlighter’s ‘mouth popped’ from 23a I hope he finds 23b just as entertaining. It has been posted.
Thank you and you’re invited one and all.https://idynamo.wordpress.com/2010/01/27/exhuming-bob-23b-of-a-b-bob-andy-edie-and-like-a-rolling-stone/
January 14, 2010
One Giant Step For Somebody
Review by R.E. Prindle
Lennon, Cythia: John, Three Rivers Press, 2005
Remember what the door knob said…
We built this city on Rock and Roll.
If you want to be a girl of mine
You’d better bring it with you when you come,
Cynthia Lennon’s autobiography of her life with John Lennon opens the door to a number of possibilities of which I’ll explore one, at least, here.
Let’s begin with Lonnie Donegan’s 1955 hit The Rock Island Line. Lonnie was the originator of his own genre- Skiffle Music. Skiffle was all the rage in the British world from England to Australia to New Zealand while passing very lightly over the States except for the fortunate few of which I was one. Rock Island Line was a major hit in the US though.
Lonnie, may he rest in peace, was also the originator of the Big Beat. Of course Lennon and most of the young English rockers studied at Lonnie’s feet. The first band Lennon formed, the Quarrymen, was a Skiffle band. That was back in the fifties before the second stage of the big change kicked off. The first stage began about 1950 with Johnny Ray and his song Cry.
Eisenhower had the world pretty well organized in 1960 before John Kennedy stole the baton from the intended successor, Richard Nixon. With the accession of Kennedy the American personality or identity, such as it was, began to disintegrate- I mean in the psychological sense.
The Celts tried to establish Kennedy as the second coming of King Arthur and his Camelot. Not the smartest thing they could have done; a couple bullets fired in Dallas on November 22, 1963 put a period to that dream. By the then the sixties were fairly launched about to begin in earnest in January of 1964 when Lennon’s next group, the Beatles, hit.
The Beatles began as a Big Beat band rooted in the fifties. Seized by the avant garde they were made the avatar of the sixties. In their own way they launched the sixties although the makins’ were already out of the can. Kennedy was shot almost in December and in January the Fab Four washed his memory out on the Ed Sullivan Show. The Kennedy assassination was so then, then. The Beatles were NOW. IS in capital letters.
While the Beatles were revamping fifties music they edged into the future with modified Prince Valiant haircuts and collarless suit jackets. They were then NEW emerging into a brave new world.
Almost at the beginning of 1960 the art world was shaken by the emergence of Pop Art. Jasper Johns, Claes Oldenburg, Robert Indiana, Roy Lichtenstein, Robert Rauschenberg and especially Andy Warhol with his Campbell’s Soup Can set the sixties on its ear. On
the film scene the James Bond series with its new sensibility began. Bond also was a revelation portending changes with unintended consequences.
Pop Art would figure signficantly in Cynthia Lennon’s life in a few years when one of its more laughable practitioners, Yoko Ono, would step into her life and filch her husband from her. In fact Pop Art would be inextricably linked with the record industry. All the pop motifs would find their way onto record covers with increasing frequency. Tiny Alice would have a cover that opened like a match book. Talking Head’s colored disc would even become a happening designed by Rauschenberg himself. The burgeoning poster business would find its way into record sleeves. Astonishing packages never seen before in the record business although perhaps anticipated by the experimental ESP label of NYC. Some interesting stuff. Perhaps Milton Glaser’s poster of Bob Dylan could run for the distinction of the most popular poster design of the whole era. It was innovation itself at the time although not quite so fresh today.
Now, all this was happening so fast and from so many directions that it was impossible to get it all or even keep up on what you did get; after all people had lives to live.
In the San Francisco Bay Area where I was during the sixties the Scene was especially heavy. I wasn’t in the thick of things but a little off to the side. Thus while the UC Berkeley Free Speech Brouhaha took center stage in the East Bay, Ken Kesey, the Merry Pranksters and the Acid Tests were simmering on the Peninsula, but actually invading the middle class especially at Stanford and UC Berkeley. The San Fransciso Mime Troupe was very important in the early stages while Bill Graham was commercializing the Trips Festival with his Fillmore shows and Chet Helms was organizing the Avalon Ballroom out at the beach. The posters for the ballrooms which epitomized the psychedelic was the first inkling I had that something ‘new’ was happening. I don’t know how quick on the uptake I was but the first inkling of New York Pop I had was 1966-67 when I opened a poster store soon to be a record store.
LA, always commercial, would nevertheless provide the great Ron Cobb political cartoons for the LA Free Press one of the best of the Hippie papers soon to degenerate into porn as did the Berkeley Barb and all the rest. R. Crumb in San Francisco became the king of Hippie porn which characterized the movement from then on. The scene was then set for George and Pattie Harrison’s famous descent on the Haight-Ashbury that disappointed them so.
This brief sketch only contains a few of the highlights of the period. It was into this world that John and Cynthia Lennon stepped unprepared. Both Cynthia and John came from a background of very low expectations. Cynthia’s dreams were very modest while per her John’s dreaming was no bigger than reaching the tops of the pops in England.
Indeed the much touted German clubs showed no promise of a future whatever. Essentially playing in brothels in Hamburg one wonders what the ‘lads’ were thinking of the whole process. The wonder is that they paid enough attention to hone their skills. One of those making lemonade from lemons situations.
Only the greatest good luck showed them to success and fortune. They would have labored in the vineyard for a while and then drifted off into jobs but for the fact that an entrepreneurial romantic by the name of Brian Epstein saw them as the vehicle to realize his own dreams. He had the direction and energy to galvanize their careers. Still they were rejected by all the labels until a producer, George Martin, apparently heard what the rest of the world would hear and agreed to record them. It was then that the unbelievable happened elevating the Beatles into the most successful pop group ever. It was success far beyond their imaginations. With that success came challenges that neither John nor Cynthia could meet. The fact that they failed is no reflection on either one; they came from very low expectations and having fallen down the rabbit hole they were slightly unprepared. ‘One side makes you larger, the other side makes you smaller.’
To this time in their lives neither had even eaten at anything other than the English equivalent of McDonald’s, fish and chips or whatever. Now in one great step they were introduced into the haut ton by their manager Brian Epstein. Cynthia leads us to believe that Epstein gave special attention to John over the other ‘lads.’ As Epstein was a homosexual and as other sources, Peter Brown, Goldman actually state that Epstein seduced Lennon he obviously had a crush on John seeking to mold him in his own image. Indeed, John may have been his incentive for taking the Beatles on. Lust at first sight.
John had an attractive flip attitude that left the impression that he was much better educated than he was. Actually he left Art School, already a step down from the top, flunked out or whatever preferring to devote himself to his guitar chords. Most of the rockers were in the same situation. It’s amazing that their fans looked to them for salvation. This was tragic, because the generation invested all their hopes and dreams in these muscians attributing universal knowledge and genius to them, each and everyone. While they all did changes on certain political and social themes there was an appearance of ‘deep’ knowledge. Being anti-pollution was a badge of authority. Grace Slick of the Jefferson Airplane made the mistake if, one hopes, jesting that one should never trust anyone over thirty; this while she, John and others were about twenty-nine.
The phrase stuck. Those under thirty trusted these youthful, perhaps well-meaning rock stars. Being somewhat older at the time I could only see some very ordinary boys and girls who were just youthful wiseacres as we all were in that phase of our journey through life. Give me a break.
The most revered of all were the three Beatles John, Paul and George with Ringo thought of more as the court jester. John seemed to take his role most seriously as the guru of the generation, especially after he abandoned Cynthia for, spare me, the psychotic Yoko Ono.
Her abandonment by John for Yoko Ono is of course the most traumatic incident in her story. One can only commiserate with Cynthia. Then one has to search for reasons why; there was certainly no physical attraction there. Lennon did release a solo album called Mind Games so perhaps the best place to look is the mental. Lennon’s success must have placed great stresses of various kinds on him. The transition from a fair degree of poverty to one of a very large income to great wealth under the management of Yoko Ono would be psychologically unsettling in itself. Cynthia was unable to transit from poverty to wealth always remaining a lower middle class haus frau while John appears to have lacked the social climbing instincts of, say, Mick Jagger.
Musicians in general are held in very low esteem by the social elite so without unbounded desire and chutzpah, an ability to endure slights of the most painful kind it is highly unlikely that a musician would ever find acceptance in society. The aristocrats, Marrianne Faithfull describes as associating with Jagger appear to me to be more of the Black Sheep variety. So, Lennon may have been experiencing some frustration at that level.
At the same time there are numerous flatterers who are adept at putting ideas of omnipotence into your head not only intimating but saying that you are godlike. Even though one rejects the notion on the conscious level still a feeling of super powers creeps into your subliminal mind. One feels invulnerable, that one can do what’s never been done, that one can do drugs with impunity. There was never a time when the availability of drugs was ever greater or more socially acceptable.
At the time rumors abounded which have since turned into facts. During the Kennedy administration there was one Dr. Feelgood operating in New York to whom the social elite went for their drugs. His name was Dr. Max Jacobson and he was your friendly amphetamine pusher. His speed cocktails were extraordinary and they lasted for days. It’s comforting to know that President John F. Kennedy was amphetamine fueled while he was making those difficult international decisions- like Cuba. Nothing like having an A-man on the job. He wasn’t alone, VP Lyndon Johnson, followed in his footsteps into the office of Dr. Feelgood. He would have found his place at the end of the line of the NYC elite.
One person who took the good doctor’s prescription said that he went blind for three days staying high for several. Max was the economic type, dirty needles too.
At the same time Dr. Timothy Leary was sending everyone from prison inmates to Beat poet Allen Ginsberg tripping into inner space with his free handed distribution of LSD. Kennedy was involved in that too.
Prior to their arrival for the Sullivan show we are led to believe that the Mop Tops had only used pep pills in Hamburg to fuel their twelve hour sets. We are told that Bob Dylan was the one who turned them on to La Cucuracha, the most mild of the intoxicants. From there the boys graduated to LSD through spiked drinks or food.
Just as Harrison’s wife, Patti, records a spiked introduction to LSD so does Cynthia Lennon. Cynthia quite properly was revolted by drugs having no use for them. John was quite the opposite. He embraced LSD apparently ingesting regularly for long periods of time. As he would describe it, thousands of trips. At that point in my estimation the marriage was over. There is nothing for which Cynthia has to reproach herself except for her small divorce settlement. Nothing disintegrates the personality like drugs.
The drug influence was followed by a change in their music patterned after Dylan. When I first heard the Rubber Soul album I found it extremely noisy and unpleasant. This album was probably influenced by the Band’s playing behind Dylan on the ’65-’66 tour or perhaps the Bringing It All Back Home and Highway ’61 albums. It seems p;robable to me that the song Norwegian Wood commemorated Dylan’s turning them on to marijuana. The girl obviously represents Dylan.
Succeeding albums would aim for a ‘heavier’ feel with more social significance. As Lennon said in his ’80 Playboy interview, I Am The Walrus was written in imitation of Dylan.
The cover of Rubber Soul was traditional uninfluenced by pop art trends. The succeeding cover in the US, the famous ‘Butcher’ cover would be widely interpreted in the US as a comment on the Viet Nam War. It may have been meant as a pun- prime cuts of both meat and record tracks, but I don’t know. Whether there was a Pop Art influence isn’t clear.
The cover for the following Revolver by Klaus Voorman seems to indicate an awareness of Pop. For a band that was thought to be on the cutting edge of everything there are only two covers very avant garde with neither being very satisfying to me.
Sgt. Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band that follows Revolver is a complete Pop Art package. A bizarre and macabre conception it does succeed. The grave in the foreground with the floral Beatles is chilling, perhaps a presage of the break up of the band. As Dylan said: If you’re not busy being born you’re busy dying.’ The Beatles are pictured in dead black and white looking down mournfully on their grave while the newly born Sgt. Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band stand front and center in vibrant living color. Obviously the one has risen from the other.
Behind the band are row on row of ‘ancestors’ or, as was commonly assumed, influences. In fact members of the band contributed only a few of the names while the rest were contributed by others. Dylan is certainly among the pictures. The album comes complete with a childhood toy, a sheet of cut outs, making a complete Pop Art package. They could have had a designed inner sleeve but they overlooked that. Peter Blake, the main designer, is known as a Pop Artist.
The musical content follows the downer social significance motif with aural pyrotechnics such as had not been heard on record before. The release, as everyone is aware, was a complete smash, but it went beyond smash into realms not achieved until Michael Jackson’s Thriller. Thriller failed to excite as did Sgt. Peppers. That summer of ’67 was literally a surround of Sgt. Peppers. It was almost the only record anyone played. The Beatles easily trumped Dylan’s Blonde On Blonde of the summer of ’66.
The rest of the Beatles’ covers are pedestrian. The White LP probably influenced by One was trite at the time.
Cynthia seems to lack all understanding of what tremendous pressures the very unstable Lennon was subjected to , how his mind was being affected by adulation from the fans and respect from the world at large. Kid me, being named one of the three most influential men in the world wouldn’t have inflated the head of a Liverpool loser? My god, the Beatles even sung ‘I’m a loser.’ I couldn’t believe anyhone would sing such a song much less the Beatles who were clearly winners. How does one endure thinking of oneself as a loser on one hand and one of the most influential men in the world on the other?
At the same time that Lennon was enlarged Cynthia shrunk into the Liverpool realities of her youth. The couple had a mansion but unfamiliar with so much space Cynthia preferred to live in one small room! Clearly she was not equal to the demands of her situation.
The situation became critical when Lennon began mass consumption of drugs, including heroin, which Cynthia correctly declined to do while at the same time the poisonous Yoko Ono injected herself into Lennon’s life. There was no hope for Cynthia. Yoko Ono was a walking disaster looking for a place to happen- and then there was John.
Quite frankly Yoko Ono’s ‘career’ was going nowhere. Born in 1933 she was 33 in 1966 when she began her assault on John who was 25.
The sexual dynamic is that Lennon seemed to prefer older women than himself having a masochistic submission impulse. Cynthia herself was a year older. She too apparently sought security in younger men. Her second husband was two years younger and her third six. She seemed to lack the dominating impulse to make such marriages work. Ono had it in spades.
While John was by this time psychotic, Ono had been so from childhood, in addition she seems to suffer from extreme cognitive dissonance. Ono got the rock critic Robert Palmer to shill for her in her 1992 release, Onobox. In the essay Palmer states:
It is quite likely that having John Lennon fall in love with her was the worst thing that could have happened to Yoko Ono’s career as an artist.
Notice the lack of mention of falling in love with Lennon. This was written, I almost said, dictated to Palmer, in 1992 twelve years after Lennon’s death. No serious critic could have written that line so one must assume that it was dictated by Ono herself. The line shows how far she has distanced herself from reality.
Ono was in fact, a poor little rich girl. As a woman she felt inferior to the male writing such pieces as ‘Woman Is The Nigger Of The World.’ Once again cognitive dissonance. Yoko Ono was never in the position of being ‘a nigger in the world.’ It is true that her father advised her against attempting composing believing that women didn’t make good composers. How wrong was he, hey? Ono milked every man she was ever with before actually going into the dairy business herself. Secondly, having chosen to enter the Western world as an Asian she places her artistic neglect on the twin facts that he is a woman and an Asian. It never occurs to her that her art is unpleasing.
As an artist, whether woman or not, Asian or not, she had nothing to offer the art loving peoples of the world. In this increasingly globalized world of the sixties being Asian meant nothing while being a woman held no one with talent back. Indeed, male artists were increasingly being suppressed in favor of women in all the arts. If all girl rock bands isn’t an oxymoron I don’t know what is.
By her own admission she thought she was an influential person in the New York City art world of the early sixties after an apprenticeship of one year even gaining ‘an international reputation.’ As she told May Pang: I was famous before I met John. So, one asks how does one reconcile her imagined great success with the feeling of being held back as an Asian and woman?
She rented a loft for fifty dollars a month which she coyly implies that as a starving artist the money was not easy to find. Well, Daddy was only a phone call away, she should have reached out and touched him. You can be sure he wasn’t going to let his little girl starve. By comparison I was paying 125.00 a month for an apartment in the Bay Area. I think we can dismiss the impoverished struggling artist scenario as so much more cognitive dissonance.
Ono spread herself pretty thin apparently attempting to cover all aspects of the avant garde. She’s keen on belonging to the avant garde. In music she patterned herself after John Cage and that weird contemporary ‘classical music’ approach with perhaps more than a nod to the early electronic composers such as Robert Maxwell who she mentions. She began her career in 1969 between the end of the Absract Expression mode and the beginningof the Pop movement so she was too late for the one and too early for the other. She and Lennon would try to rectify this in 1971 by doing obeisance to the Pop guru, Andy Warhol.
In 1961 she threw a party and was devastated that a snow storm discouraged the uptown crowd she had invited from coming. At least she said there was a snow storm. This may be another instance of cognitive dissonance. As she was an actual nobody she had no reason to expect society people to attend, snow storm or no snow storm. Nevertheless she was devastated, leaving town for Japan shortly thereafter. One may question where she obtained the fare for that flight when she had difficulty of meeting a fifty dollar rent bill.
In Japan she acquired her first husband simultaneously being committed to an insane asylum. As difficult as it may be to believe, her soon to be second husband, Tony Cox, heard these marvelous things about Ono in NYC deciding to fly to Japan to look her up. He found her thoroughly doped staggering around the halls of the asylum. He succeeded in getting her released then he, Ono and her first husband formed a menage a trois. The first husband wisely was the first to leave so Cox claimed the prize and the couple returned to NYC in 1964 so she is having an eventful four years. Shortly after their arrival they pulled up stakes and headed further East to London. Of the move Ono says:
I thought (the) avant garde world in New York was still very exciting but that it was starting to become an institution in itself, and there were rules and regulations in an invisible way, and I just wanted to get out of it. I never considered myself a member of any group. I was just doing my own thing.
That is just another way of saying that the art scene was a cliquish group in its terminal stages that was difficult or impossible to break into so unable to do so Ono was ‘just doing her own thing.’ It might be noted however that the NYC art scene was or was in becoming a nearly totally homosexual affair. At any rate we have evidence of sour grapes- I never considered myself a member of any group. And the result of rejection- I was just doing my own thing.
After her rejection she ‘composed’ a musical piece called Wall Piece For Orchestra in which she knelt on a stage and repeatedly banged her heard on the floor. Today that would be called ‘acting out.’
Off to new worlds to conquer in London and at the Indica Gallery of John Dunbar, the resident ‘head’ art gallery. Now, at this point she ‘ruined her career’ by pursuing John Lennon until he caught her. I imagine that she had been shrewdly observing his career and undoubtedly came to the psychological conclusion that he was a dependent personality who could be easily manipulated by the older maternal type with the right touch. That John Lennon could be made dependent on this woman eight years his senior is proof positive. Indeed, John even referred to her as Mother.
Cynthia for whom the role was impossible correctly assessed the situation noting the influence of Lennon’s Aunt Mimi who brought him up. Ono courted Lennon, interfering directly in his marriage. Ono was quite willing to drug herself along with Lennon so that both were heroin addicts. Ono thus established a sado-masochistic control over Lennon that Cynthia had no chance of breaking.
Rather than ruining Ono’s career the ‘third most influential man’ in the world gave her a stage on which to perform that she could never have found on her own. She now considered herself a collaborator with the Beatles. The injection of the Cage and Maxwell garbage combined with Lennon’s erratic behavior produced the nonsense of Revolution #9 on the White Album.
Lennon on drugs and under the influenceof Ono, who had her motives, according to Dire Corrector’s blog quoting the biographer of Paul McCartney, Many Years From Now, says:
The meditation had essentially precipitated a nervous breakdnown which was not helped by John’s tremendous drug intake. On May 18, 1966 he summoned a meeting of the Beatles at Apple and announced to them that he was Jesus Christ…the night after he told the other Beatles that he was the Savior, he finally called Yoko Ono and told her to come over.
Quite obviously Lennon was either teetering on the brink or had fallen over the edge. If he hadn’t broken with Cynthia by this time it is quite clear that apart from a certain inappropriateness of being wed to the Savior she was quite innocent of causing the break in any manner and should have a clear conscience.
Lennon’s state of mind would explain the insensitive manner in which he broke with Cynthia and its aftermath. The man must not have been in his right mind. While easing Cynthia out was relatively easy, from Ono’s end Tony Cox to whom she was still married was not such a simple matter. One wonders why he would fight so hard to keep a women who was so psychotic. Perhaps it was their daughter who he later took into hiding to keep her away from Ono. Justly so, it seems.
At any rate by ’69 Ono and Lennon were free to marry. Definitely by this point Lennon had all but surrendered his identity to Ono. She was now in possession of the reputation of one of the three most influential men in the world. Blending her identity with his she was about to become hermaphroditic. Perhaps Lennon was overawed by her avant garde credentials, such as they were, as well as whatever passed for her musical sensibilities.
She became Yoko Ono Lennon while he legally changed his name to John Ono Lennon so they both became Ono Lennons. After a number of happenings which one must believe were entirely Ono’s conceptions, such as the ‘bed in’ in Holland and the organization of the Plastic Ono Band, the pair settled in New York in an apartment building known as the Dakota. The Dakota was a connection to Ono’s past fulfilling an old desire to surpass those uptown types who she felt had slighted her.
In that connection also the cover of the Plastic Ono Band is a fulfillment of an old desire of Ono’s. While a child she witnessed the fire bombing of Tokyo in the US attempt to bring an end to the war. The blue sky was obliterated by the billowing clouds of smoke. While she didn’t witness Hiroshima yet she imagined the same sky as that over Tokyo. She then developed a blue sky obsession. If you notice the cover of the Plastic Ono Band is just a blue sky. One assumes then that Ono’s plans were coming together.
The NYC art world of 1960-’61 had shifted totally, the Abstract Expressionists she had tried to piggyback on were gone having been replaced by Pop Art of which Andy Warhol was the reigning doyen. If the Abstract Expressionists had been exclusive Warhol was nothing if not inclusive. He worshipped celebrities and Lennon was the number one celebrity. Himself a groupie and maximum social climber he welcomed an association with the Onos. For Yoko Ono the association with the leaderof the NYC art scene was her dream come true. Nothing but blue skies from now on.
In the accompanying picture you will notice that Warhol is seated in between a standing Yoko Ono with one hand on her right tit while his hand is on a drugged out looking John Ono with his hand on Warhol’s crotch. The symbolism is quite clear. The standing Yoko
is the master of two emasculated males who happen to be two of the most influential men in the world. She ain’t no nigger no more, Maggie’s Farm is a thing of the past, yes, men are now niggers in relation to herself. Warhol as an artist takes precedence over the disposable oafish John Ono. Yoko is tallest and standing, Warhol is second tallest and sitting while the now disposable John is lowest, lying on his back. The future is clear. Study John’s face; study all three faces.
The sexually besotted John Ono has surrendered his entire identity even as a musician allowing Yoko Ono to usurp his place by putting out those horrid hideous LP musical montrosities. Robert Palmer aside, with song titles reminiscent of her head bashing days: What A Bastard The World Is, I Felt Like Smashing My Face In A Glass Window, Woman Of Salem (Witches), Coffin Car, Hell In Paradise and Walking On Thin Ice. Clearly this woman had an unsettled, disturbed mind.
Having usuped Lennon’s role and identity he became expendable. Her problem now was to transfer his past and his wealth to herself thereby becoming Yoko-John Ono, Double Fantasy. Two fantasies melding into her one personality.
John Ono’s finances were, of course, in complete disorder. As Yoko was soon to show billions of dollars were disappearing down a sink hole. She rapidly organized his finances turning his money green. Within short order the Onos were worth a hundred million or so which she would swell to a billion or more after John’s death.
I imagine it was fairly easy to have John Ono give her a power of attorney, indeed he forked over his identity allowing her to function in his stead as himself. An awesome abdication. A POA would negate the need for a will, and indeed having made herself not only co-owner of John’s assets as well as his identity Yoko Ono would merely acquire full ownership leaving no assets to be willed. Indeed, she could have turned him out penniless at any time. When Cynthia was clamoring for a reading of the will she was wasting her breath; if a will existed, unlikely in itself, there would have been no assets to bequeath.
Yoko Ono having now incorporated John Ono’s reputation and identity into her own had also incorporated the assets and with the assets the legacy of all copyrights held by John Lennon as the double fantasy melded into one fantasy. The only obstacle to Yoko’s apotheosis into man-woman was John himself as he was alive. However John was only thirty-five. To wait thirty-five years or more with a man she didn’t love or even like would be unbearable. Some hard thinking was in order.
She manipulated the poor dolt into thinking he was a boorish oaf who needed to go off to get himself together. Rather than just sending him off she chose an employee, May Pang, an Asian like herself, to be John’s consort while away.
In reading May Pang’s book, Loving John, it becomes clear that Yoko Ono was a master hypnotist. She knew how to make suggestions and have people act on them. Acccording to Pang she fixed an hypnotic glare on one, assuming an authoritative posture while intoning her suggestion. She had the reputation of always getting her way.
Of course her version of what happened is different than Pang’s. Yoko having suggested she go off with John, the act was soon consummated. Pang insists she and John were in love, yet a year and a half later when Yoko called John back he came running.
Thus, from 1975 to Double Fantasy in 1980 Yoko and John Ono were out of public life living as a double fantasy of Howard Hughes. Then in 1980 Mark Chapman became the man who shot John Lennon. There have been speculations that Chapman was hypnotized when he committed his deed. Conspiracy theories therefore have sprung up.
One must ask who the death of John Lennon benefited. Two possible people. Yoko One on one hand and possibly Chapman on the other. On the one hand Yoko Ono achieved the psychotic desire to escape being the ‘nigger of the world’ by becoming John Ono Lennon while physically remaining the sweet little girl she had been before the fire bombing of Tokyo. She was unable to manage the memory of that transformative experience. In her mind, then, she became the prominent artist-musician of the world.
I don’t believe the government had anything to do with the assassination.
As we know Yoko Ono was a master hypnotist; the question is how did she find Mark Chapman and how did she hypnotize him?
Earlier in the day Chapman had approached Lennon for an autograph. He can be seen worshipfully smiling beside his hero in the picture. There appears to be no indication he meant to harm Lennon. He might easily have shot him point blank at the time, yet when he came back in the afternoon with a voice in his head insistently saying: Do it. Do it. Do it. he gunned his hero down.
At the time Yoko Ono had dropped a few steps behind John. In similar murder attempts, people step away from the intended victim so as not to be caught in the line of fire. This may have been the case with Yoko.
Certainly Yoko is opposed to Chapman’s release from prison even though he has fulfilled the twenty year requirement of twenty to life. I doubt if he is a threat to society however he may be a threat to Yoko Ono if he were to remember or reveal the details leading up to his shooting of John Ono Lennon.
Of course, I don’t know why Chapman shot but I do know that Yoko Ono Lennon was the sole beneficiary. She left Cynthia holding the bag while she realized her double fantasy.
December 9, 2009
George Harrison, Eric Clapton, And Me
I of II
Review by R.E. Prindle
Boyd, Pattie: Wonderful Tonight: George Harrison, Eric Clapton, And Me, Three Rivers Press, 2007
I don’t believe in boogie bars,
Macro biotics or souped up cars.
I don’t believe the price of gold;
The certainty of growing old,
But, I believe in you.
Perhaps it’s because I lived through the era experiencing what I did and vicariously the rest that I was thoroughly charmed by Pattie’s autobiography. I hope I will be excused for calling Pattie by her first name throughout but Boyd sounds so brutally unisexual eliminating amything but female sexual aspects that it doesn’t seem fitting and I don’t wish to sound formal otherwise.
This part of the review will cover pretty much Chapter 3: Modeling, 4: George and 5: Mrs Harrison. The chapters brought back the glittering memories of the sixties, memories created more by magazines and television shows than reality for most people but perhaps more or less real for some. If it wasn’t real for Pattie than it probably wasn’t real for anyone. But then it’s hard to tell where you are at any given moment in time.
She was there in what was called ‘Swinging London’ at the time. From a distance it was just dazzling. We were entranced by the possibility. As the late great Roger Miller put it: London swings like a pendulum do. By the time I got there in the seventies the pendulum was stationary. Pattie herself began life as a hair stylist but in a top notch salon. While there she was given an intro to a modeling firm and was lucky enough to catch on. From the looks of the photos whe was in the Twiggy line. She could have become a high fashion queen.
And London was a place where staying on top of fashion was a full time job. The scene was perhaps best captured by Ray Davies and the Kinks in their song: Dedicated Follower Of Fashion. If memory serves it was written about Marc Bolan.
…his clothes are loud but never square
It will make him or break him
So he’s got to buy the best
‘Cos He’s a dedicated follower of fashion.
He does his little rounds
Amongst the boutiques of London Town
Eagerly pursuing all the lates fads and fashions.
Pattie was in the thick of it mentioning the people she associated with, mere names to us, like Ossie Clarke, Twiggy, Mary Quant, David Hockley, photographers, artists, fashion designers who were realities to her although the glitter is brighter than the shabby fabric beneath. But then, how else could it be?
One feels envy at her luck. I was on the West Coast viewing it all from a distance with wonder, but owning a record store. By the time I got to London in the early seventies the swing had swung. Carnaby St. was deserted when I strolled down it all alone past the shops empty of customers. What sounded so good in song looked effete in reality. Of course I was straight Beverly Hills, dressed completely Eric Ross, quite a standout, but strange and exotic to Londoners.
Oh well, there were always the great book stores.
Pattie had begun her career as a fashion mdoel when she received a call to appear on the set of the Beatles movie in progress, A Hard Day’s Night. I suspect that George Harrison had seen her about town and requested her by name, only a guess, but he certainly glommed on to her when she arrived. Honorable intentions too. The couple got together and it was on. Thus she entered the charmed circle of the Beatles. You couldn’t get no higher.
The Beatles? Who cared really? other than the millions. Whatever was happening there passed me flatter than the Grateful Dead, and that’s flat. I was cool to both the Beatles and the Stones. I wasn’t really a dedicated fan of anybody; I liked certain records- Superlungs by Terry Reid. The first Jeff Beck with Rod Stewart when he still had intact pipes, the second with Bob Tench wasn’t bad either, lousy cover. Beck apparently hated vocalists because he played so loud, on purpose, I was backstage once and watched him do it, that he blew out their pipes. Donovan’s Sunshine Superman was tops, Procol Harum’s first, Alan Price’s This Price Is Right, stuff like that. Dillard and Clark, Flying Burrito Brothers’ White Line Fever, some Johnny Rivers. Nice stuff. Two or three Byrds.
But, the Beatles were gods and here were George Harrison and Pattie Boyd trying to fashion a normal lower middle class life in a hundred room mansion. The Beverly Hillbillies in London. Good luck boy and girl. And that was not taking into account drugs. Pattie’s story of the maniac dentist sends a chill through the marrow; a real demon dentist, the Sweeny Todd of the profession. Lord, deliver us from evil. It was he who introduced Pattie and Harrison to LSD, surreptitiously of course. Spiked their coffee just as they were about to leave his house.
Then the stuff came on, a little like the Airplane’s song, White Rabbitt- one side makes you larger, one side makes you smaller. Pardon me for writing myself into the story but the pen is in my hand:
Happened to me once. I was down in Berkeley at what was supposed to be a party. Pot parties in that time and place meant everyone sat around self-absorbed looking out vaguely at what could possibly have been you, or possibly just empty space. This particular set played draggy jazz so possibly they weren’t even looking out, their eyes were just open. As I was to learn it wasn’t pot. I had never smoked before anyway. Nobody could have ever been busted for whatever it was I smoked. Nothing was happening except the draggy jazz, maybe John Coltrane going around in fifths, and I was getting bored so I said I was leaving. As with the dentist of Pattie’s experience I was abjured not to leave. I never knew really what it was until I read Pattie’s story. It hit me a couple blocks down the street. The ‘tobacco’ must have been laced with acid.
Getting out of the maze of streets of Berkeley always required a little concentration on my part anyway and now I didn’t have any. I didn’t even know where I was or where I was going. Fortunately for me the car drove itself. I did have to keep my hands on the wheel though it wasn’t always uppermost in my mind. The car did strange things when I took my hands off the wheel, wandering here and there. A voice spoke saying: Keep your hands on the wheel.
The car found its way to the MacArthur Freeway which, although it was a road I knew by heart I couldn’t recognize. Plus everything had turned a shiny patent leather black, the highway just glittered and shown so. Colors had disappeared; the lights of the cars shot through my eyes to the back of my brain. They were all driving very slowly it seemed but passed me going very fast. Of course I was driving about twenty-five per which was as much as I could handle. I got in the slow lane. A good thing because it seemed like I was going around this curve for twenty-five minutes. Everytime I looked it seemed like I was in the same place. I decided to put my foot back on the gas.
The next problem was that the sky and highway were bonded together. Fortunately the car was able to separate them and they moved apart before us- the car and me.
My next big problem, after a seeming eternity, was that in order to make a left exit to Castro Valley I had to cross three lanes dotted with cars moving at varying speeds in different lanes. I had to time it just right to get in between cars in two different lanes. Sort of a Rubiks Cube kind of problem. While I was dithering my car changed lanes for me and I was on the off ramp with a smile.
An underpass lay before me where the most miraculous event in my life took place. As I began to enter the underpass this set of ram’s horns, you know, like a male sheep, began to grow from my forehead. Great white curling things they were, magnificent. It was at that moment I realized I was Master Of The World. Just as I was about to assume the mantle I came out the other side losing my spectacular rack and my crown. While I was pondering the imponderable my car finding its way back gliding noiselessly up the street into the driveway where it pertly came to a halt. Heaving a sigh of relief I got out and entered the house.
I don’t know what I looked like, perhaps fierce because of the loss of my horns, but my wife and mother-in-law seemed to run from me. Entering the kitchen I saw my brother-in-law about to have some tacos he’d cooked up. The guy was a wizard with hamburger; he could do things with hamburger than no chef had ever done. I had issues with him which I won’t go into. When I saw the tacos I became ravenous and wanted them. He was experienced. He took one look at me and realized the situation his hand stopping before his open mouth.
I didn’t hesitate, I remembered being Master Of The World. I snatched his tacos from his hands saying: I want those. He was knowing. He made no resistance, just said, sure. Smart move because I wouldn’t have taken no for an answer while still feeling superhuman. I wolfed those suckers down; best tacos I ever ate. But now there were fireworks going off in my head. I got in bed and watched the light show going off behind my closed eyes for a couple hours. I woke up grouchy and ragged. I took care in the future to make sure that never happened again. Wherever I had been I didn’t want to go back. I sure missed those horns though.
Apparently Harrison and his band mates liked it going back repeatedly. But then Pattie discovered that old fraud the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi and his Transcendental Meditation. What a fraud. She turned Harrison on and the band followed. First it was Bangor, Wales and then on to the big temple in the Himalayas of India.
There are many wondrous stories of their Indian sojourn at the ashram. The upshot was that the holy man liked girls as much, perhaps more, than the rest of the fellows. This tore a rent in his spirituality and disillusioned the group who left in a huff.
Pattie does tell a good story about Ringo who was wary of spicy Indian food having had digestive problems as a youth. He took along a suitcase full of Heinz Baked Beans. Imagine going through customs with that. Imagine watching the guy in front of you opening a suitcase full of cans of Heinz Baked Beans. US Customs would have made him open each can on the spot. I’d be laughing yet.
After their marriage George wanted her to give up the job of modeling. she had regrets but as far as modeling went she was getting old. Younger women were pushing up. The Twiggy look was dated from the start anyway. She might have been near the end of her career whether she liked it or not.
Couple intesting points before this idylic phase of her life and life with George Harrison ended. Mick Jagger and Marianne Faithfull came to their house one night. Jagger wrote on the Harrison’s wall: Mick and Marianne were here. Strange action for guests. The only thing I can figure is that Mick was marking out the limits of his territory like one of the big cats who go around peeing on bushes to set up their territory. As a Beatle and tops of the pop world it was incumbent on each Beatle to establish their priority, their dominance over the lesser princes. When Mick wrote that on Harrison’s wall without demurrer he was establishing dominance over his superior. Eric Clapton would later do the same when he took Harrison’s wife while defeating him, as some say, in a guitar duel.
If you watched the 2009 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame show you saw Jagger and Bono dueling it out for the crown. A very haughty Jagger beat Bono into absolute submission having him groveling before himself worse than Obama before the Emperor of Japan. Jagger was so taut that after he flipped off Bono he almost dismissed the audience but then caught himself and gave a dismissive back hand wave in acknowledgment. That was somethin’ else man.
Jagger as leader of the Rolling Stones also foisted Allen Klein on the Beatles also demonstrating the priority of the Stones over the Beatles. And lastly Jagger, how shall I say, induced Bob Dylan to open a show for the Stones placing Dylan therefore beneath the Stones. I would have to say that the Stones have finished as the undisputed Kings of Rock of Roll. There’s always more going on than you think.
And then Pattie and Harrison were in attendance at the famous first drug bust of Jagger, Richards and Marianne Faithfull. As Pattie tells it she and her husband left the party at 3:00 AM. Immediately after they left the police raided. She believes the fuzz waited until they left as they were Beatles. The Beatles were thought of as clean at that time while the Stones and Marianne were monsters. She may be right. If the type of glamour achieved by the Beatles and Stones was new to them and difficult to manage perhaps the same was true of society. The Phenomenon of the British Invasion was so spectacular that you just had to stand back and ask: What’s this? So maybe the cops did honor The Top Of The Pops.
Whether she was slapping back at Mick for writing on her wall by the observation I can’t tell although both stories found a prominent place in her narrative. High school never ends.
The contest for her favors by Harrison and Clapton is very complex, a lot of psychology involved. I’ll have to work on it some but that will be covered in my review of the second half of the book to follow.
October 17, 2009
Chris O’ Dell
Miss O’ Dell:
My Hard Days And Long Nights With The Beatles, The Stones, Bob Dylan, Eric Clapton
And The Women They Loved
As Chris says, she wasn’t famous but she was in the thick of things. Worth a lot. She disapproves of being called a groupie but I would say that she was the most successful of all. All the groupies would have snapped up Chris’ life without a dare.
Chris did have somewhat of an advantage in being twenty when she went to work for the Apple. She had some skills and maturity rather than being underaged jail bait. Boy, the Federales could have had these guys anytime: drugs and teenage girls.
Chris soon fell into the booze and drug trap. The most tedious part of the book is that of booze and drugs. Of course her co-author, heavy on the co-, Kathleen Ketchum’s previous writings have been about drug rehabilitation so she flogs the drug issue into oblivion. Hard to believe any one took drugs back in those happy uncomplicated days. Alright! Surprise, surprise, the middle name of Rock n’ Roll is Drugs- Sex, Drugs, Rock n’ Roll. Yes, it is also true that Chris engaged in some hanky panky too. Gosh, she bedded down with a couple Beatles, Mick Jagger and Bob Dylan. I suspect those revelations are more for the groupies than the general public. Eat your hearts out, kids. Clapton wouldn’t have anything to do with her by the way.
For me the real story that unfolded slowly and inconspicuously was the changing relationships between the Beatles and their women with Chris in the middle. Chris was friends with Harrison and Ringo Starr having little to do with John and Paul.
The first 100 pages are the most interesting of the book. They detail her actual working activies at Apple from the bright days of total indulgence to the takeover of Apple by Allan Klein. After Klein the fun stopped as Klein set about plundering Apple. Not before Chris had established a sterling relationship with George Harrison himself. As time and drugs wore on the youthful relationships came apart. These people were so into booze and drugs that their subconsciouses overwhelmed the conscious- I’m sure that at some point they wandered into a drug and alcohol induced haze. The good thing was that they didn’t have to worry about money although they sure went through it.
Chris’ description of the evolutions and transitions of the relationships of these key people of the musical era then forms the most interesting part of what is, frankly, a fairly boring story. The background story of Harrison, Boyd, Clapton didn’t exactly happen as it looked to us on the outside. We thought at the time that Clapton recorded Layla and Boyd came running but such was not the case. As Chris tells it Harrison, if he didn’t drive Boyd away neglected her and allowed her to drift away.
Clapton, says Chris, was a total junkie although he’s still hanging in there today. His records had no appeal to me so I could care less.
Uncertain of her precarious standing as either an employee or freeloader Chris drifted back and forth from LA to London while still apprently being part of the gang. The breaking point was when she was visiting Ringo’s ex-wife Maureen and took a tongue lashing from Ringo. Moving away she took up with a German promoter she knew through a large part of the eighties.
Part of her concern was hitting bottom, the rebound point when you know you have to change your life. From my observation point that happened in two stages. the first was when her German boy friend’s promotion company could no longer stand the ravages of drug and alcohol induced incompetence and Chris violated all the rules of friendship with Harrison. Something she thought she’d never do.
Her boy friend’s company bankrupt she asked for money from Harrison. George was a brick and handed over six thousand pounds without a murmur. The money of course went down the drug drain.
Now, Chris had developed sterling credentials as a tour organizer for various groups. She was with Dylan and the Rolling Thunder tour for instance. That is what she was doing with this German fellow. After the Beatles, Stones and Dylan the crowning indignity was when she was assigned to tour Echo And The Bunnymen. These guys are still going so what can you say. But, you know, time had rolled along under the bridge and Rock was becoming a shadow of its former glory. Who really cared anymore? I mean, you know, I’ve never listened to Echo And The Bunnymen and you can be sure I’m not going to buy their latest effort which is out now.
She then married an English aristocrat, had a baby and a divorce and went back home to Tucson.
End of story. Oh yeah, she’s now a rehab counselor.
The main interest is the level of rock society she moved in. The hand of Ketchum is too obvious. One had the feeling one was reading a novel of O’ Dell’s life rather than a living memoir. Wrong voice. Probably a must for the cast of characters and inside information but the drug and alcohol stuff is too, too boring. For Christ’s sake, who didn’t do drugs? Everybody’s got a million drug stories. Let it be.
August 20, 2009
Conversations With Robin, Page 3
Conversations between R.E. Prindle And Robin Mark
Well, well, well. Robert Goulet. I should have known that filthy bastard would be mixed up in there somewhere. What amazes me is that Guralnik could write two fat volumes on Elvis and never mention the Mob once. I think we can begin to integrate Elvis’ Mob conflicts pretty clearly now, although research will have to establish the connections for sure.
For starters, entertainment is a Mob industry both records and movies; that includes both Jews and Sicilians. If you haven’t read Gus Russo’s Supermob yet, do so. The Sidney Korshak role at MCA is crucial.
Anent shooting out TVs remember that Sinatra had a plane he called Superwop or something to that effect so it is clear he bore a grudge against the Anglo world. The plane was a small ‘Lear’ if I remember correctly. Elvis went out and bought a 707. Big plane, big penis; little plane little penis. Not exactly true in Frank’s case, but you get the point. So at least Goulet and Sinatra. I can understand why Dean Martin tried to distance himself from those creeps.
Parker must have had the business dealings with the Outfit. As he ran into gambling problems the only commodity he had to barter was Presley. Thus he would have had to ‘sell’ Presley to keep both his legs under him. Elvis’ rapid deterioration could have been because of his realization that he was ‘caught in a trap. I can’t get out.’ Devastating awareness. One could only retreat into booze and/or drugs.
Now, Leiber said that he and Stoller at one time worked for the Mafia. This wouldn’t be unusual nor should it be held against them because if you’re in entertainment you’re involved, like it or not. The question is when were they involved, for how long, and for what purpose.
We all know Fabian was a Mob creation. Why not others? If you haven’t seen and studied The Girl Can’t Help It, do so. The movie is an alegory of the record business. Everything you see in the movie is the Outfit in action. In the fifties every Juke Box in America was stocked by the Outfit. You didn’t get your record stocked unless you were Mobbed up somewhere along the line. Someone recently told me that the girls on the Dick Clark Show were prostitutes and Bandstand was used to showcase them for Johns. Don’t know that it’s true but I wouldn’t be surprised.
Leiber and Stoller could have been co-opted to write songs for, say, The Coasters. A Black act with interchangeable personnel. Kind of an early Back Street Boys. I don’t know but I’d like to hear Leiber talk about it. Might prove enlightening.
So, let us assume that the Colonel was drawn into the Mob scene from the beginning of Presley’s movie career. That might explain some of his stupid decisions and those dumb movies. Perhaps Parker didn’t have a free hand but was ‘wise’ enough to figure out that something is better than nothing.
Then after Vegas Presley was increasingly drawn into orbit until he learned the horrifying truth. Guralnik seems to have his head up his ass as far as I’m concerned.
As Presley learned the truth looking forward to forty more years of slavery he found drugs more comfortable than reality. Possible, it would make things make sense.
April 29, 2009
George Du Maurier
Review by R.E. Prindle
Du Maurier is interesting as a possible influence on Burroughs. Du Maurier not only borrows from authors he admires but tells the reader he’s borrowing. Burroughs borrows without creditation. The great literature of the nineteenth century was written during Du Maurier’s lifetime. Thus Alexandre Dumas’ Three Musketeers of 1845 was a new book. It was also a book that overwhelmed Du Maurier’s imagination while having a later profound effect on Burroughs. Thus Du Maurier tells the reader his plot is based on The Three Musketeers. Like Burroughs Du Maurier incorporates several sources in an obvious manner. He was apparently fascinated by Henry Murger’s Scenes De La Vie Boheme of 1851. I haven’t read the book as yet but other reviewers say the influence is there. I pick up an influence from La Dame Aux Camellias by Dumas fils also. Du Maurier refers to many poets and writers whose writing left him helpless but as I am not that well grounded in many aspects of early nineteenth century literature I can’t identify the influences myself but they are as plentiful and obvious as with Burroughs himself.
In his own life Du Maurier had aspirations to be an opera singer but lacked the powerful voice. He then aspired to be an artist but lacked that talent becoming one of the premier illustrators of the century instead. And then as he felt death approaching he turned to writing. Thus a failure as a singer, a failure as an artist but success as an illustrator he became a huge success as a novelist. The careers of his protagonists generally follow the same course.
He is also a nostalgic writer as he lovingly recreates the scenes of his youth and life. He always retained the impress of La Boheme living his life in a genteel bohemian style. I suppose today he would be like an old hippy walking around in a gray pony tail, sandals and the garb of the sixties while making a fortune as a stock broker.
Thus Trilby opens in an artist’s atelier on the Left Bank of Paris in the Latin Quarter. The Latin Quarter of his time may be compared to New York’s Greenwich Village or San Francisco’s North Beach of the fifties and sixties. Du Maurier himself lived such an existence for a couple years at the end of the eighteen fifties.
We are thus introduced to his three musketeers- Taffy, the Laird and Little Billee. They are fine comrades living the Bohemian life style much as some upper middle class hippies took to a bohemian life style with torn jeans and the pose of the impoverished in the nineteen-sixties.
The whole ensemble is gathered thogether in the atelier for the opening section. Taffy, The Laird and Billy are letting the studio. As Du Maurier says on the title page this is a love story. Trilby O’ Farrell the love interest turns up immediately. She and Billy love each other but Trilby is classed as a grisette which was apparently the equivalent of a hippy chick who was somewhat free living. Trilby declassed herself completely by posing as an artist’s model in the altogether or, in another word, nude. This was no small thing to all concerned although the bohos tended to be a little tolerant.
After Trilby arrives come Svengali and his sidekick Gecko. They are musicians. Svengali is billed as an incomparable musician which is to say performer. He was a great pianist. He taught Gecko his violinist everything he knew.
We are discussing the nineteenth century and nineteenth century views in context. The story can’t be told any other way. If the attitudes and opinions of other times and other people offend y0u be forewarned and proceed at you own risk. I will bowlderize history to suit no one’s whims. As Walter Duranty facetiously said: I write as I please. Du Maurier, the gentlest of men, nevertheless had well formed opinions. Svengali is a Jew and pretty much a stereotype of the Jew at the time. He appears to be a beteljew from the Pale actually although he is said to be German but the accent Du Maurier gives him could just as well be Yiddish as German. It is important to bear all this in mind because in the contest for the possession of Trilby between Billy and Svengali the latter is going to obtain her.
There’s an interesting contrast here the meaning of which isn’t exactly clear to me. Trilby has a beautiful foot, the kind that drives fetichists wild. After this first encounter Billy, the consummate artist, sketches the foot on the wall to perfection. All the others are amazed at the likeness. This sketch occupies as central place in the story as does Svengali’s hypnotism of Trilby. Svengali on the other hand demands that Trilby open her mouth wide so he can look in. Raises your eyebrows when you read this. Not only does Trilby have a beautiful foot but she has a cavernous mouth that made for an amazing sound chamber, the kind that comes along apparently once in ever.
The problem is that Trilby can’t put two notes together nor can she even find the note while finding the key is bothersome. Much is made of her inability to sing as she screeches ludicrously through Sweet Alice, Ben Bolt. (Ben Bolt was one of the most popular songs of the century on both sides of the Atlantic. Due to the wonders of the internet if you’ve never heard Ben Bolt you can get a good performance on the net. I’d heard of the song but never heard it until I checked it out on the net. Just amazing.)
Her rendition was a cause of great merriment. So you have the European sketching the foundation of the girl while the Jew is inspecting the intellectual possibilities. The Jew will win because he’s at the right end. As I say the mystery of these images float over my head. I’m merely making a stab at the meaning. I know there’s a contest and what it’s about but the symbolism is shaky to me.
And so the introduction ends with everyone agreeing that Svengali is a cad after he left and all three musketeers falling in love with Trilby.
There is much description of the fine times the musketeers have. One gets the impression that Du Maurier was living the life in the sixties in Paris but such was not the case. He signed on at Punch in 1860 and thus was working as an illustrtor for them from that date until his death. He seems to have been familiar with the Pre-Raphaelite painters of London of whom he speaks highly most especially of Millais. He seems to have been friends with a Fred Walker who he thought was a great artist but who seems to have been lost in the mists of time. I’d never heard of him anyway but one can find his pictures on the internet. Du Maurier loved the artist’s life.
Much of this book as well as the other is a loving recreation of the times and his memory of the times is one of wonderful things. Very refreshing against the unremitting negativity of modern literature. The book is set mainly in the sixties but the ‘horrible’ year of 1871 and the French Commune obtrudes. Du Maurier while recognizing its ugliness nevertheless passes over it quickly with a shrug and back to the good times. He introduces some additional charming characters but then come the crisis.
Billy had asked the declassed Trilby to marry him nineteen times and she had always refused because she knew she wasn’t in his class. After an amazingly wonderful Christmas feast in the atelier Billy asks again. Trilby, as she says, in a moment of weakness accepts. When the news reaches Billy’s mother, Mrs. Bagot, she scurries over to Paris from London to check Trilby out. When she learns that Trilby had posed in the altogether she persuades Trilby to give up her son.
Trilby leaves town without a goodbye. When Billy finds out he has his brain fever or a nervous breakdown that prostrates him for weeks. There was a chance he wouldn’t make it. He does but with psychological consequences. He can no longer love while he lives in a deep melancholia. There are some who know where that’s at. After he recovers he returns to England. the wonderful Bohemian rhapsody is over.
Trilby had left Paris to go to the provinces. She had a little brother who she was supporting and bringing up who she took with her and who then dies of a fever. This devastates Trilby who cuts her hair, dresses as a man and walks back to Paris. Her old haunts have disappeared in the interim so she shows up on the doorstep of Svengali who is but too happy to take her in. The hypnotized Trilby is a small part of the book. The next hundred pages or so describe Billy’s wonderful success as a painter and the loss of camaraderie as the young idealists of the Latin Quarter age and lose their affinity for each other. Charmingly told with just the right touch of heartache.
In the meantime and off stage, as it were, Svengali accompanied by Gecko keeps Trilby in a hypnotic trance as he
teaches her to use her tremendous oral cavity to sing. While she has the exact equipment to be a great singer she lacks the musical sense and can’t learn it sober. Svengali instills the musical sense through hypnosis but as Gecko later explains Trilby is merely providing the instrument while Svengali is actually singing through her. For three years they labor in the salt mines, as they say, performing on street corners or wherever. Then Trilby is properly trained becoming the rage of Europe as La Svengali becoming bigger and better than such stars as Adelina Patti or Jenny Lind, two real life divas.
Thus while Billy has lost Trilby’s foot or body, Svengali has captured her soul or oral cavity. That’s about the only way I can make sense of foot and cavity.
Now, in real terms the Jews had been emancipated beginning in 1789 by the French Revolution although occuring at different localities in Europe at different times. With the emanicipation a contest began for the soil and soul of Europe. Europeans owned the soil but the Jews while originating nothing became the cultural virtuosi of Europe. Not only in the performing arts but in finance, science and as entrepreneurs. The soil temporarily remained European but the culture was becoming Judaized. It was then that Freud made his assault on European concepts of morality. So Du Maurier has portrayed the situation poetically in a magnificent manner.
Thus the Jews while offering no Beethovens, Bachs or Mozarts became virtuoso interpreters of the music as performers. As Svengali says: Piff, what is the composition compared to my ability to render it. There you have the exploiter’s motto. The Allen Kleins and Albert Grossmans of the world suck the talent, as it were, out of their performers or, boys, as they call them, as agents taking nearly everything leaving the actual talent a pittance.
Nothing changes, this is what Svengali was doing with Trilby or, in another word, Europe. He was making a fortune while Trilby in her hypnotized state was wasting away. Oh, Svengali dressed her well but for the sake of his appearance not hers. When she died, of the fortune that she had made for Svengali none was left to her. Except for presents she had received in appreaciation of her singing she had nothing. They were supposed to be man and wife but, in fact, Svengali never married her. Here I think we have the real import of the story; the competition for Europe between the Jew and the European. Having given up the soul of Europe Europeans were losing their very substanc, the soil, or Trilby’s foot.
Du Maurier is also describing the rise of the artist from a despised menial to the central position in society that they have attained today, especially movie, TV and musical stars. One only has to look at the position Bob Dylan has attained to see the result today. Here is a man with no qualities revered as if he was the savior while poised to begin a tour of stadiums at 67.50 a head that will sell out earning him a fortune within a couple months. Thus as with Svengali he has conquered the soul and wealth of virtually the world. This is truly astonishing.
So Svengali is on top of the world. Despised as a beteljew in the atelier a short five years ago he now has Trilby/Europe and the fortune that goes with her. Alas, he is sucking the life’s blood from her to do this and she is within weeks of death when the Three Musketeers hearing of La Svengali’s fame travel back to Paris to see her perform.
Of course they are so astonished at seeing someone who looks like Trilby singing that they can’t believe it is indeed her. Svengali harbors ill will toward Billy because Billy is always in her heart while her relationship with Svengali is strictly professional.
The Musketeers and the Svengalis are staying at the same hotel where Svengali meeting Billy can’t resist spitting in his face. Billy, who is actually known in the story as Little Billee is much smaller than the six foot Svengali but he nevertheless goes after him getting the worst of the fight until Taffy, a giant body builder type, shows up grabbing Svengali’s ‘huge Hebrew nose’ between his first two fingers leading him around by the nose. Oh, those unintended consequences. The humiliation is too much for Svengali, he becomes vicious toward Trilby in revenge. Readying for their London debut he bullies Trilby in front of Gecko, now his first violinist, who stabs Svengali in the neck with a small knife.
Svengali while wounded is not hurt that bad but his physicians advise him not to conduct the opening performance. This creates a problem because Svengali must make eye contact to sing through Trilby.
He takes a box directly in front of Trilby. But he spots Billy and the other two musketeers in the pit in front of him. The malice and venom he has toward Billy makes his heart fail. His face freezes into a risus sardonicus as he sits lifelessly leering at the Three Musketeers, triumphant in death. Of course Trilby can’t sing a note on her own so that ends a fine career. Now begins the denouement. While seemingly superfluous this is a very important part of the story giving it its secondary meaning.
The Musketeers take Trilby in charge. No one is aware she had been hypnotized while she has no memory of performing and little of the lost five years. The situation between she and Mrs. Bagot, Billy’s mother, are now reversed. Trilby is the great lady while Mrs. Bagot is merely a middle class hausfrau. One might say Svengali has created the real Trilby. Mrs. Bagot still hadn’t posed in the altogether however. Where was Hugh Heffner when you needed him.
On the surface it looks as though Mrs. Bagot has gotten her comeuppance but as Trilby is the creation of Svengali she would have remained the simple little grisette that Billy loved without him. She would have remained the foot without realizing the potential of her oral cavity. Nevertheless this Trilby was Trilby as she should have been.
The woman was fading fast. Svengali had drawn the vital energy from her in his exploitation of her. Mysteriously, just before she dies, a life sized portrait of Svengali is delivered. The contest between he and Billy is still in effect. Gazing in the painted eyes of the hypnotist Trilby breaks into song as a final effort in her best manner.
Billy is grasping desperately for Trilby’s love. On her death bed he leans close to hear her breath out- Svengali, Svengali, Svengali. Thus he believes she loved Svengali more than he. His brain fever is reactivated, he dies. In grand operatic style the love story ends. All because Mrs. Bagot was a snob. But, I think a correct one. Although, what the heck, Billy was just a boho painter.
As an anti-climax in a final chapter titled Twenty Year After as tribute to Dumas whose sequel to The Three Musketeers was title Twenty Years After, Taffy takes a trip to Paris where he finds Gecko playing fiddle in a music hall. He sends a note that Gecko accepts requesting a meeting at his hotel. There Gecko resolves the mystery filling Taffy in on Trilby’s missing five years. He reveals that Trilby had always loved Little Billee and never Svengali.
The reading public then and now has concentrated on the Svengali-Trilby hypnotism aspect of the novel ignoring the rest. That aspect is actually a very small part of the novel but without it I suppose the story woud have fallen flat. Even today a manager like Colonel Tom Parker is thought of as a Svengali to Elvis Presley, so the name has come into common usage for someone’s inexplicable control of someone else.
Edgar Rice Burroughs who had a fascination with hypnotism was probably charmed by that aspect of the story. In his most detailed reference to hypnotism in Thuvia, Maid Of Mars he seems most influenced by stage hypnotism in which the audience is induced to see what is not there rather than the Svengali type. Still, Thuvia-Trilby and the relationship between Jav and Thuvia and Thuvia and Tario has some resonances. I dout that ERB would have been conscious of his borrowing imagining rather that he was creating the story from whole cloth.
End of Part Two, Go to Part Three the Review of The Martian.