“This unassuming little girl is one of the Egyptian Dancers who caused a furor at the 1893 World’s Fair.” from the book Striptease: From Gaslight To Spotlight by Jessica Glasscock.
I tried my best to resist the lure of this video which I was first introduced to through artist Porous Walker‘s Facebook page.
What is it exactly that I find so lovable about this song? Is it the synthy Hi-NRG beats, the hypnotic vocoder robot vocals, the infectious chord changes, the catchy chorus backed by samba shakers, the requisite hand claps, the unrelenting bass line, the melodic alarm clock beeps taken from a children’s cartoon all topped by a perfectly timed cowbell pop? Or is it the video itself with the Chrissy Snow dancers, so vapid and rhythmless (you can see them counting beats in their head) following a choreography that means absolutely nothing to them cause all they are smiling about is the cocaine they were promised after the video shoot? Did Cicciolina find her inspiration here? Xuxa?
Ornette Coleman-Times Square
In the early 90s, mainly due to the influence of my cooler hipper friends and because of the bands we were listening to at the time, I became a semi-follower of the free jazz genre. I can’t say I really enjoyed listening to most of the records I collected but there was something about the music that kept me interested. I think it was the moment when the dissonant chaos turned into discordant melody – it was those little hooks that always pulled me in.
Ornette Coleman was one of my favorite free jazz artists, I tried my best to get into the stylings of musicians like the Brötzmanns but I admit, it’s the fellas from this side of the world I found more palatable. Eric Dolphy and improv master Pharoah Sanders are also favorites.
I love this clip and how the song starts off funky and we’re all thinking it’s time to shake your booty but then quickly turns into Coleman’s notorious all over the place crazy sax. If Los Angeles is to be represented by a type of jazz, I say Ornette Coleman would be the sound of the city with a little Poncho Sanchez thrown in for good measure.
By the way, as I was writing this post and listening to Ornette Coleman, a friend walked by and asked “What happened? Did your computer freeze?” referring to the song. Har har.
Dog Faced Hermans-Timebomb
Bonus! A song by Dog Faced Hermans who were one of the bands I mentioned earlier that were very influenced by Ornette Coleman and who through their music, led me to the world of free jazz. Seeing Dog Faced Hermans play live was an unforgettable experience.
By coincidence, the creator of the above publication came up to me when I was 14 years old and told me I reminded him of a character named Maggie from a comic book called Love and Rockets. Interestingly, the story of said character eerily mirrored my life for the next six years, love life and all. I related very closely to this fictional world of SoCal Chican@ punks, cholos and weird, spooky unexplained happenings – it brought me a bit of solace during the dark days of my teen years.
Mr. Freeze-Dr. Know
Not knowing there were any connections between the above story and incident, I saw this band one and half years later after reading my first Love and Rockets comic book (which was bought at a store called Y-Que.)
I’ve always been a fan of public art especially stencils and wheat pasted posters. There’s been a long tradition of using these methods of public propaganda to promote subversive political ideas and critiques of culture. Often the graphics and posters are clever and thoughtful and the critiques they make witty and sharp. (See this video for how it’s done.) How could one not want to squat, take to the streets or run to the barricades after being inspired by such expressions of creativity?
It is within this context that I view the current crop of stencil/graff/flyposting artists here in Los Angeles and sad to say, these attempts at public art are hardly worth the mention. (Shepard Fairey? Pffft.) Most of the wheat pasted pieces I’ve seen, especially on the west side of the Los Angeles River are all about self-promotion and lack original and creative qualities.
Take this poster for instance. Einstein holding a sign that says “Love is the answer?” In this day and age of La Crisis and the numerous dire situations this city finds itself in, and the only thing this artist can come up with is this pseudo-hippie slogan? Oh how edgy! And Einstein…really? And when has ‘Love’ solely been the answer to anything? Some people’s ideas of love can be pretty screwed up, so no thank you. Social change comes not from wishful thinking and sappy slogans but from real engagement with the world we live in. Perhaps it’s this engagement that’s lacking from the current crop of west of the River public art.
“ People who talk about revolution and class struggle without referring explicitly to everyday life, without understanding what is subversive about love and what is positive in the refusal of constraints, such people have a corpse in their mouth. “– Raoul Vaneigem, 1967
See LA Taco for an amazing gallery of public art from Argentina.