PRINT November 1995


Simon Watney's Real Life Rock

Simon Watney writes frequently for Artforum.

  1. Eurostar

    The idea of the cross-Channel ferry was always rather romantic—the reality, less so. These days the roll-on/roll-off car ferries are little more than floating death traps, seemingly designed to maximize personal discomfort. Flying is a miserable alternative, given the great distance of the main airports from the city centers of London and Paris. Now there’s an immensely comfortable and civilized way to travel between Britain and mainland Europe. A well-designed terminus at Waterloo, and no hassle. Just three hours from the heart of London to the Gare du Nord in the middle of Paris (three hours and 15 minutes to Brussels). And how fitting that the new symbol of European unity should be a deep, dark, inviting hole! Forget space travel; trains-are-us.

  2. Louise Bourgeois

    Sculptures, environments, dessins: 1938–1995.” A fabulous exhibition at the Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris, with a fine catalogue, this is the most important large-scale exhibition of her work since the great MoMA show in 1982. What a great and reasonable artist, and how directly seeing her work in Paris draws attention to the more or less hysterical “good taste” of so much French art since Matisse. No falsely consoling fantasies concerning the supposed innocence of childhood vision here.

  3. Maxime Montel

    Un Mal Imaginaire (Les Editions de Minuit, Paris, 1994). This short book is a marvelous corrective to the whining, narcissistic texts of Hervé Guibert or Cyril Collard. From Gide to Barthes, French culture has lovingly canonized only the most damaged and self-hating of its homosexual writers. AIDS has encouraged the worst kinds of racism and homophobia in France, as well as an especially unpleasant brand of sentimental Liebestod. My thanks to Larys Frogier for drawing this book to my attention.

  4. The British Museum, Room 14

    The newly organized gallery of Hellenistic art provides a giddying sense of the richness and complexity of European culture in the short centuries between the death of Alexander the Great and the end of the Ptolemic dynasty in Egypt. See in particular the tremendous cult statue of Demeter from her sanctuary at Knidos, and the equally fine cult head of the Asiatic goddess Anahita (“in the guise of Aphrodite,” as the accompanying caption obligingly explains). But for the finest Hellenistic work of art in the British Museum, make a detour to the Egyptian galleries, which contain a black schist head of a man, life-size, from Alexandria—a bust Cavafy must have known and loved.

  5. Nicholas Saunders

    Ecstasy and the Dance Culture (available from Neal’s Yard DTP Studio, 14 Neal’s Yard, London WC2 H9D9). More than a million tablets of Ecstasy (MDMA) are sold every weekend in Britain, yet the entire subject of recreational drug use remains subject to extreme demonization throughout the mass media. It’s no surprise that Saunders has been widely vilified in the tabloids, but his analysis is eminently sensible and well-informed. His latest book provides an excellent, practical history of the social, legal, and pharmacological dimensions of MDMA and its uses, together with an extensive medical bibliography contributed by the remarkable American scientist Alexander Shulgin. Saunders’ reliable updates are available on-line at

  6. Clara Haskil

    The Legacy (Philips UK). A magnificent 12-CD set of the complete recordings made by the great pianist for the Philips label in the nine years before her death in 1960. Somewhat overshadowed by the deluge of Sviatoslav Richter reissues this year, Haskil’s playing stands at the opposite end of the scale of musical greatness. Hers was the ultimate in understated French style; although she was no thundering virtuoso, her playing is often as dark and somber as Richter’s in its own way. Try the Mozart or Schumann selections in volume 3, or the second movement of Chopin’s Second Piano Concerto.

  7. De’Lacy

    “Hideaway” (BMG Records). The U.K. dance hit of the summer, effortlessly crossing from the club floors to the pop charts, with a once-heard-never-forgotten melody and fabulous lyrics: “I got a man who tries to run me; That’s the way to make me run away./He don’t know he’s just a pushin’ me/To a man who’ll make me happy./I’m an independent woman/I don’t need no man to take care of me/’Cause I supply my own security./I need a hi-hi-hi-hideaway . . . ” Sublime.

  8. Georg Solti

    La Traviata (London, Decca). At the age of 82, Sir Georg Solti’s first recorded La Traviata, preserving his 1994 Covent Garden performances with the young Romanian soprano, Angela Gheorghiou—perhaps the most remarkable and naturally gifted singing actress since Maria Callas in her 1950s prime. Oh gioia!

  9. Kristine W

    Feel What You Want (ZYX Records). A welcome CD issue plus new remixes of a song written and produced a couple of years back by Rollo, the Phil Spector of British ’90s house music. This is Rollo at his leanest and most spare, with wonderful lyrics and the extraordinary American Kristine W. on vocals. Check out the Dignity Vocal Mix.

  10. The O.T. Quartet

    Hold That Sucker Down (Cheeky Records, 181 High St., Harlesden, London NW10). With vocals by the divine Collette, who hails from Colchester in Essex, this is the godlike Rollo at the operatic end of his remarkable talent, recording for his own label under one of his many personae. As mainstream pop and rock collapse around us under the cumulative weight of tired banalities (Blur, Oasis, et al.), dance music seems to be the only living, innovative sound around. Which is why many rock ’n’ roll critics are so endlessly dismissive and patronizing about it. Rollo produces the most sumptuous sound pictures imaginable—listen to his recent Salva Mea, by Faithless. With the O.T.’s, he’s at his most wildly anthemic. Dancing to this at the Fridge in Brixton on a Saturday night is about as close to pure joy as the ’90s can get. Bring back the Sound Factory!