PRINT September 1997


Greil Marcus’ Real Life Rock

Greil Marcus is a contributing editor of Artforum. His catalogue essay “Forty Years of Overstatement: Criticism and the Disney Theme Parks,” appears in Designing Disney's Theme Parks: The Architecture of Reassurance, edited by Karal Ann Marling (Flammarion).

  1. John Cale

    Eat/Kiss: Music for the Films by Andy Warhol (Hannibal). Chamber music that in the eleven-movement sequence for Kiss (1963) runs from the austere to the severely trashy. The four-part piece for Eat (1964) is deadly dull, but so much so you hardly notice it’s there, or that the movies aren’t.

  2. Amy Sedaris

    “Incident at Cobbler’s Knob,” by the Talent Family (Lincoln Center Festival, New York City, July 8–11). Sedaris plays both a witch (Theresa from Flathurst) and an animal (Donkey) as hillbillies, and she plays hillbillies as creatures who have discovered that the quickest route to true communication is obscenity: as weary irony, as a wallow in the mud, it doesn’t matter. Not only does the donkey prove Sedaris’ case, unlike almost every other character in this little play, it lives.

  3. Kenny Bill Stinson & the Ark-La Mystics

    Festival of American Folklife (Washington DC, July 4). Performing as part of the “Mississippi Delta” subsection—along with Memphis legend Rufus Thomas and some pretty bad blues players—this loose and rangy rockabilly outfit had the right song for Independence Day: Chuck Berry’s “Back in the U.S.A.,” so full of longing you could almost feel you weren’t home. With leader Stinson all ease and guitarist Kevin Gordon all effort, the band got where it meant to go every time.

    My favorite moment came not with Stinson’s from-the-ground-up Jerry Lee Lewis covers or Gordon’s own “Blue Collar Dollar,” but when Stinson claimed drummer Paul Griffith’s hometown as Waterproof, Louisiana—probably the last thing you could call any town in Louisiana, let alone one in the delta. It’s not on any map I’ve got, but maybe that’s where the second part of the band’s name comes in.

  4. Jonathan Lethem

    As She Climbed Across the Table (Doubleday). A third novel that starts slowly but turns out to be as good as its title—if not quite as sexy.

  5. Saints

    “Messin’ with the Kid,” from The Most Primitive Band in the World (Hot/Restless). The Saints were Australia’s original punk band; their 1977 I’m Stranded seemed definitive on release. This 1974 recording has more in common with what Peter Laughner was doing with Pere Ubu in Cleveland about the same time: striking matches in a self-created dankness, the dankness courtesy of the Rolling Stones’ “Sway.”

  6. Don Bolles

    Don Bolles Presents “I’m Just the Other Woman,” MSR Madness Vol. #4 (Carnage Press, POB 627, Northampton, MA 01060). “Song-poem music,” states producer Don Bolles of the results of the small-ad scam where frustrated small-ad readers are seduced into sending off their heartfelt scribblings to a concern that will “set them to music,” for a very reasonable fee, “is one of the richest motherlodes of pure unfiltered glorious wrongness to be found in any field of human endeavor. I believe in that statement so firmly that I am willing to die for it.” Now that, you might say to the former drummer of LA’s by-now nearly mythical Germs, is punk—but only before you’ve played Bolles’ compilation of what the MSR company did for its would-be George Gershwins and Neil Sedakas. Some of the numbers—mildly insane rambles sung as if they were Tony Bennett album filler—are charmingly odd. Then you come up against “The Will of God,” written by Dan Ashwander, sung pleasantly enough by Keith Bradford. This, you accept some time after you’ve realized it, is God Himself’s attempt to get Himself a hit record, while also stopping “the evil German race” and its plan for “a secret Nazi dictatorship,” a pairing that as Bradford renders it could almost be “moon” and “spoon.”

  7. Alan Lomax, Producer

    Southern Journey (Rounder). A thirteen-volume reissue of Lomax’s historic recordings of gospel, blues, breakdowns, etc., and the Heisenberg Principle was never more in effect: the sound is as sterile as the performances are formal.

  8. Guided by Voices

    “I am a Tree,” from Mag Earwhig! (Matador). It’d be a step up.

  9. Midway Stadium/Ticketmaster

    advertisement for upcoming concert (City Pages, June 18). You know how in the ads for once-mighty rock heroes now reduced to playing local bars you’ve never heard of, the promoter always sticks the title of the one big hit under the marquee name, since you might remember the song even if you’ve forgotten who did it: Every Mother’s Son (“Come on Down to My Boat”)—Gino’s No Cover One Nite Only? But this was a shock, and for a show at the Minnesota State Fair, no less:

    Featuring . . . IN PERSON
    “Blowing in the Wind”

    Not to mention that it’s “Blowin’,” not “Blowing.”

  10. Anonymous

    altered Travel Guard International travel insurance vending machine (Oakland Airport, April 7). As TRA ELVIS-URANCE, naturally. Or unnaturally.