Writing in Elsewhere

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INVISIBLE REPUBLIC; BOB DYLAN'S BASEMENT TAPES by GREIL MARCUS:

12 Sep 2010  |  1 min read

When Bob Dylan skidded off his motorcycle in upstate New York in mid-1966, it allowed him an extraordinary career hiatus. Before his accident - which some Dylan bores still insist never happened - he’d been a Woody Guthrie wannabe, a folk troubadour and protest singer. Then, by plugging in an electric guitar and touring with a group which would later become the Band, he turned... > Read more

BLOOD & RAGE: A CULTURAL HISTORY OF TERRORISM by MICHAEL BURLEIGH: We who are about to die . . .

11 Sep 2010  |  3 min read

President Barack Obama’s recent speeches directed at the Islamic world – coded or clear – are an obvious attempt to defuse (or perhaps simply diffuse) the flashpoints between the West and the Muslim world. Many argue this overdue hand of friendship and a willingness to engage in dialogue will assuage the current climate of mistrust and fear which has lead to disaffected people... > Read more

Bruce Springsteen: You're Missing (from The Rising, 2002)

LISTENING TO VAN MORRISON by GREIL MARCUS

6 Sep 2010  |  1 min read  |  3

Music writer Marcus is so well ensconced in the pantheon of great rock writers that his books are universally hailed on publication. But this one -- a series of essays on Morrison's music which, confusingly, comes in the same cover photo as another similar Morrison book and appears in the US and UK entitled When That Rough God Goes Riding -- will be more frustrating than illuminating for... > Read more

ROCK ME AMADEUS by SEB HUNTER: One man's journey into classical music, and out again

5 Sep 2010  |  2 min read

For those who have grown up within rock culture, author Hunter is the courageous advance guard into the world of classical music. A self-confessed addict of popular music who buys rock magazines such as Mojo, Uncut, and Record Collector (and NME although he hides that inside the Guardian so people don’t think he’s a paedophile), the lank-haired and sartorially unfashionable Hunter... > Read more

JOHNNY CASH AT FOLSOM PRISON;THE MAKING OF A MASTERPIECE by MICHEAL STREISSGUTH

30 Aug 2010  |  2 min read  |  1

A hip comedy club, New York, late 1980s. The stand-up delivers a one-liner which has the smart set baying: "Does anyone know why Johnny Cash still wears black?"  At the time Cash's career was in one of its periodic lows. In the 90s it would be turned around with the spare and elemental albums under the genre-defining banner American Recordings, and by the time of his death... > Read more

CAN'T BE SATISFIED, THE LIFE AND TIMES OF MUDDY WATERS by ROBERT GORDON

30 Aug 2010  |  3 min read  |  2

When McKinley Morganfield’s grandmother named him Muddy after the nearby Mississippi and he later took the surname Waters, there seemed something oddly symbolic in it. Here was man who wasn’t born in the year he said he was, claimed a town he wasn’t born in as his birthplace and carried a name he wasn’t born with. These are muddy waters indeed. Yet in that there... > Read more

VINYL HAYRIDE; COUNTRY MUSIC ALBUM COVERS 1947-89 by PAUL KINGSBURY

23 Aug 2010  |  1 min read

The purest strain of American country music -- not the pop-schlock of Shania Twain or the credible singer-songwriters out of Texas -- bewilders most people. It can be cornball, sentimental, blindly patriotic, hypocritically conservative, and often just plain strange. It is also, to cite Nick Tosche's excellent studies of it, "the biggest music in America" and "the twisted roots... > Read more

THE VELVET UNDERGROUND: AN ILLUSTRATED HISTORY OF A WALK ON THE WILD SIDE by JIM DeROGATIS: When the whip comes down

22 Aug 2010  |  5 min read

In 1976 the musician/producer and music theorist Brian Eno said to Punk magazine of New York’s the Velvet Underground: “I knew that they were going to be one of the most interesting groups and that there would be a time when it wouldn’t be the Beatles up there and then all these other groups down there. “It would be a question of attempting to assess the relative... > Read more

The Velvet Underground: Venus in Furs

ELVIS: A CELEBRATION by MIKE EVANS

16 Aug 2010  |  2 min read

In a recent interview with Elsewhere, Memphis author Robert Gordon, who has often written on Elvis Presley, had a smart rejoinder when asked if the King might not become like Marilyn Monroe, an icon better known for his image than what he did. "Well, Marilyn Monroe didn't have the Sun sessions," he said, referring to those classic rock'n'roll sessions of '54. But Gordon also... > Read more

DOWN AT THE END OF LONELY STREET by PETER BROWN and PAT BROESKE: The rise and fall of the King

16 Aug 2010  |  2 min read

With the second volume of Peter Guralnick’s definitive two-part biography of Elvis, Careless Love: The Unmaking of Elvis Presley there would seem little reason to be interested in this more modest paperback subtitled with blunt literalism The Life and Death of Elvis Presley. However, Brown and Broeske have done their homework and cite numerous personal interviews with major... > Read more

MIND OVER MATTER: THE IMAGES OF PINK FLOYD by STORM THORGERSON AND PETER CURZON: Memorable lapses of reason

9 Aug 2010  |  2 min read

For many Pink Floyd fans the name of photographer/designer Storm Thorgerson conjures up an image of some Scandinavian psychedelic traveller, hair blowing in the breeze as he traverses landscapes of the subconscious and alights on startlingly personal visions which then become public proprerty. Thorgerson is the man with a mainline to the images which have long been associated with this... > Read more

Pink Floyd: Astronomy Domine

SLEEPING WITH GHOSTS by DON MCcCULLIN: War -- and something approaching peace

6 Aug 2010  |  2 min read

In one of those excellent but buried television programmes, various photographers who were in the Vietnam killing zones told of the stories behind some of those images imprinted on the collective memory of a generation. That shot of the young girl running down the road, her back on fire from napalm? It was initially rejected because it showed frontal nudity. The policeman... > Read more

20TH CENTURY DREAMS by NIK COHN AND GUY PEELAERT: A life less ordinary

2 Aug 2010  |  2 min read

Max Vail was an extraordinary character. Part-Zelig and part-Chauncey Gardiner, he was seen in the company of the great and famous throughout last century. He counted among his friends Andy Warhol, John Lennon, Rudolph Nureyev, Truman Capote and all the important Kennedys. His funeral in 2000 - he died at age 100, his life spanning the century that he somehow defined -- was attended by... > Read more

BIGGLES SHOT DOWN: But not by the Boche this time

23 Jul 2010  |  5 min read

The thrilling air adventure of Biggles in World War One flew pretty close to reality. Take the case of the Belgian aerial observer whose balloon shared the skies with glue-and-matchstick flying machines flown by heroic young adventurers. His balloon caught fire and he slid back to earth 3000 feet down the steel mooring cable -- and lived. William Earle Johns, creator of the legendary... > Read more

CLEOPATRA; HISTORIES, DREAMS AND DISTORTIONS by LUCY HALLETT-HUGHES

19 Jul 2010  |  2 min read

It seems curious that Madonna, who has had the unerring instinct to reinvent herself in the image and iconography of others (yesterday Marlene, today Marilyn) has never – at least not yet – alighted on Cleopatra for inspiration and a new dress code. Here, at least in myth, is a wannabe seductress and style-setter for the modern era. The life of a steamy... > Read more

AN EXPANDING SUBTERRA by WAYNE BARRAR: Going underground

8 Jul 2010  |  3 min read

The first time I went to Las Vegas it tricked me, and I enjoyed it. In some kitsch casino my partner and I descended a floor or two underground to a street made up to look like a New York City block. We went into an Italian restaurant which had a nice patio facing the street and I turned to her and said, "You want to sit inside or outside?" "Outside"? Underground?... > Read more

LAWRENCE FERLINGHETTI INTERVIEWED (2000): The angry old man

7 Jul 2010  |  8 min read  |  1

Lawrence Ferlinghetti sounds in feisty spirit. Indeed, my call to his famous City Lights bookshop in San Francisco finds the 81-year-old deeply irritated, if not to say downright angry.It's all because of the recently released album of him reading selections from his poem, A Coney Island of the Mind, his 42-year-old poetic meditation which has been translated into nine languages.No, he wasn't... > Read more

VENICE: PURE CITY by PETER ACKROYD (2010)

5 Jul 2010  |  4 min read

If you had been in Venice last year and gone to see the elegant Bridge of Sighs you would have had an unpleasant surprise. This passage between the Doge’s palace and the prison -- those taken to the clanger would, at the very least, sigh -- was itself a prisoner of the 21st century. It was surrounded by huge covers over the surrounding buildings which were undergoing renovation, and... > Read more

THE GREAT WALL by JULIA LOVELL: Built it and they'll believe it

5 Jul 2010  |  2 min read

When Richard Nixon stood on a segment of China’s famous wall in 1972 he announced, “This is a great wall and it had to be built by great people” the anti-Communist American president was playing the diplomacy game on his break-through mission. But he was wrong on a number of counts. He had fallen for the widespread notion of a “great wall” when there are many... > Read more

SCENES FROM A REVOLUTION by MARK HARRIS: He not busy being born is busy dying.

28 Jun 2010  |  3 min read

That film is a collaborative art is accepted, but it can also be a war of attrition where inflated egos collide at the interface of culture and commerce. And in Hollywood where the stakes -- money, careers, egos -- are bigger, and can disproportionately rise or fall dramatically with any project, then the stories from behind the scenes can be outrageous. Peter Biskin's Easy Riders,... > Read more