The Creative Consequences of the Confluence of Influences...
As ever, customary cautions may (or may not) apply…
Parental Advisory: contains bad words
Trigger-Warning: contains facts
Safe-Space Guidance: contains opinions with which you may disagree
Allergy Advice: contains ideas you may consider nuts
Political Correctness Detection: contains innuendo you may find offensive
O ma gawd.
That effing Graham geezer, Old Captain Pastel Pants… Captain Ranty-Pants... He’s back.
Like a puke in a lift.
What is it now?
Well, my Coronial chums, recent SM events (social media posts... not, my fellow pervs, sado-masochistic gatherings; geez, in these freakishly socially-detached times, the chance would be a fine thing, eh?) got me to thinking a bit more about influences. You may or may not know (probably not, to be fair) that I wrote about some toggery-related stuff here: 'Influences & Respect' so, if, by the time you have crippled your way to the bitter end of these contemporaneous, cantankerous contradictions, my latest shitpost does not adequately satisfy your craving to experience true suffering - and you are indeed feeling especially sado-masochistic today - come back and click it.
In summary though, previously, in order to avoid a concatenation of conflicting intentions, a conflagration of illusive elucidations and an ensuing blitz of derisory displeasures, I kept the post relatively general and, other than one specific photographer reference for explanatory illustration, I didn’t name any names. But the time has come, as that venerable marine mammal, Odobenus Rosmarus, purportedly declared, to speak of many things. Yes indeed, my comrade inebriators (I just made that word up, but The Inebriators does sound suspiciously like a ‘70s Scottish punk band, don’t you think?) it is the moment for some naming of the names... The revelation of the conflagration of inspirations that inspired the transformations in my arty-farty evolution no less and, this time, I mused, why not make a list of things in several categories of creativity that helped to mould me into the sad and solitary old seascape weirdo that I am today?
So, incoming alert.
Together with photography/photographers, I am preparing an inventory of assorted arty-farty stuff; music, books, film and performance art/visual art, for this and future posts. I have made my music selection based on both its influence on me at the time of release and, in some instances, the effect it had more widely on the zeitgeist of the moment; either as evolution or revolution. Books; do I still see them in my mind (what’s left of it)? Would I re-read them? Films ditto; would/do I re-watch them? Performance? Well, there’s a thing that’s - for the most part anyway - been & gone and is consigned to history forever, so… would I give almost anything to go back and experience it once more? Or perhaps those events I endeavoured to attend but was thwarted by circumstance and that I forever regret not catching. Photographers will be those who, dead or alive - and all points in-between on the spectrum - who I admire and whose work I aspire to, as well as those who produce stuff way beyond my sphere of expertise or in sub-genres that I can probably never hope to be proficient in.
But Benjamin, you discerning scholar of enlightened oblivion; you judicious carouser in rampant peculiarity; you abundant experimenter with altered states of perception, we have trusted you previously and you have led us a merry friggin jig down a convoluted paradoxical trajectory of perilous cerebral confusion directly into riotous ructions of misconception that have left us mentally mutilated, mnemonically maimed and emotionally bamboozled. What can you possibly offer to persuade us to follow you blindly once more into the daunting hollow canyon of gloom that is likely to be this profound yet unsettling insight into your dark and charismatic yet dissolute and unnerving mind? You may very well enquire.
Well, my highly-discerning, acutely-interested, thoroughly-disinfected, but probably mostly-intoxicated friends, allow me to explain.
And when I’m done explaining - and as the realisation dawns on you that you cannot use me as a good example - I can, at least, serve as a grave warning...
Yes, it’s that time again... Buckle up, boys and girls (and others) blatherings ahoy...
So, what the plonking flip am I on about now? Well, I’m talking about epiphany moments really. Those defining and temporarily blinding lightning-strikes of inspiration in life, after which things can never be the same again. Experiences and realisations that move us so deeply, our brains are rewired from that point on... I’m talking visual and performance art that makes your eyeballs pop out and bounce across the floor. Cinema that hauls your brain unexpectedly - but ultimately gratefully - kicking and screaming into a whole nother realm. And books that make you believe we really can fulfill our definitive destiny and evolve into an interstellar, intergalactic or even a pan-dimensional species. I previously wrote about that here: 'Stories & Themes'. And finally, music that summons such visceral synaesthetic responses that it becomes a physiological experience of another universe in your mind.
So, convenient segue established, I’ll begin with music today, if I may. It’s no wonder really that it should be so fundamentally profound in its perpetual influence on me, because audio power is the only power I crave. Autocratic types desire power over people, and many end up in politics… Control freaks desire power in relationships and many end up as abusers… Petrol-heads pine for power on wheels, and many end up in hospital… And, I must fess-up here, I have been one of those (a petrol-head that is, in case you’re speculating or tittering at the options…). Yep. Even now, in my late stage in life, I do still enjoy a schoolboyish ogle at the ludicrous aesthetics and horny spec-sheets of a well-engineered, properly-badass supercar and I have, from time to time, been guiltily down the route of vehicular extravagance myself with ludicrous power to weight ratios, physics-defying, flesh-shredding acceleration and eyeball-bursting g-forces… But, fun though all those fancy fantasies may very well be, it is easy for me to live without any of it, so long as I have access to a voluminous, crystal-clear, undistorted monolithic wall of sound. And those who crave that sensory power do not generally, as a result of that craving, end up as abusers, despots or hospital patients... They just end up grooving harmlessly at raves, parties and gigs... Many years ago, someone said something wise and wonderful to me, and now, if you'll permit me, I shall enlighten you with its perspicacious and elegant veracity, he said: "the people dancing are never wrong". Sweet, huh? And he wasn't wrong, right?
Sonic power is the visceral power of which I never tire, for which I constantly hanker, and without which I would not be happy to live. Although, to be fair, I think, over the years, my neighbours might have perceived things a little differently…
And, contrary old bugger that I am, ironic that I should now seek silence, solitude and space in my photography.
Music is the soundtrack to so many defining moments in my life. It recalls situations, moments and characters with an uncanny internal clarity; the enduring friendships forged in the most unlikely of situations; those forged and then, through force of circumstance or geography, lost to a vague past; and those forged then prematurely and tragically lost to death’s taciturn clasp... Music expresses it all; the emotional investments we make into our relationships, into our creativity, into our social networks; into our lovers (and other strangers). Music manifests internal mnemonic responses, emotionally sensitive responses, tragically melancholic responses and wildly ecstatic responses. It conjures abstract dreamy landscapes in the mind (now there’s a clue to my own visual art’s destiny…) that express periods of heart-breaking forfeiture and moments of blissful enlightenment. It causes vivid visions and sentimental sensations to arise like scenes from a poignant, deeply-personal film so we involuntarily and momentarily ache for the loss of otherwise only scarcely-recalled situations. It gifts us precious sonic images that resonate so intensely that we become voyagers through time & space, transported to somewhere familiar yet strange to briefly experience the dying echoes of previous versions of ourselves that, other than in blurred and diminishing memory, no longer exist.
Woah. Just hold your goldarn horses a minute there, boy...
Geez, all that abstract metaphysical mumbo-jumbo was getting a bit out of hand... it was all way too hippyish by half, I fancy... I need to consult judiciously and voluminously with my 10 year-old friend, Macallan, then I can indulge shamelessly again in my discomforting inscrutable ramblings…
Don't go away...
Right. I’m back... And I shall get to the point but, at this point, before we reach the point, it all probably seems a bit, you know, pointless so, there's probably only one surety and that's that I'm about as welcome as a fart in a space suit at this point.
Yes but wait, there’s more (though not much... not today...).
You know, I’ve really been paying attention to these ‘albums that are the soundtrack to my life’ type-threads that have been trending amongst my chums in my twitter timeline lately. Not a vast entourage of followers, mine, it must be said but, for sure, quite enough for the inadequacies of my fading old faculties to handle. Anyway. as I was cordially invited to show a 'top ten', I’ve recently shared some music myself on Twitter. I'll just say at the outset, to narrow it down (there are so many notable and worthy sounds that lay claim to the decades) my selection criteria were simply these:
Were they musically revelatory moments for me?
Did they help define the zeitgeist of the time?
Do they still go on the decks now as more than just the odd nostalgic single-track trip down memory lane?
Fair enough for the Twitterati literati and glitterati, I reckoned. Then it dawned on me I should have a go at a bigger list. A chronological retro of my life in favourite choonz.
And this post is a kind-of top-100 if you like; and although some of it is resigned wholly to the past, it partly shaped the future me; it was influential in my formative years but is not necessarily perennial. Having evolved and finally found myself (geez, I should frikkin hope so by now...) I wouldn’t choose to indulge in an evening of it today, but, in it's dated charms, redolent of an era long-gone, it deserves placement as it has a remote bearing on who I am... And, you know what? It's been as much a pleasant stroll into a subjective sonic past as it has has been a celebratory retrospective enjoyment of album sleeve-art.
Vitally for me, musically, everything didn't just come grinding to a mind-closing, ear-sealing halt at some random point in the eighties, because, despite what the nostalgia whingers would have us believe, the nineties, noughties and teenies have been a frikkin power-house of contemporary music creativity. The cultural explosion of EDM and electronica that began in the late eighties/early nineties and that had its inspirational roots firmly in Eno's, Bowie's, Kraftwerk's, etcetera’s experimentalism - and that got me hooked on that genre in the very first place - became a pan-global phenomenon that endures undiminished to this day. And when that sonic tsunami properly arrived and drenched us in its all-consuming aural-sensory sumptuousness, I fully admitted to anyone who'd listen that I'd been waiting all my life for it.
And, here's a thing: hard though you may find it to believe (well, if you've made it this far then maybe it's not that difficult now) once upon a time, in a distant galaxy and a zany head-space far, far away, Old Captain Pastel Pants was (actually, I still am, though I say so myself...) quite an accomplished techno DJ... I know, right?! Who'da thunk it, eh? Consequently, I have a pretty vast collection of single tracks, too numerous to mention here. Yes, my comrade early-birders, I may be with you now at 4AM, all set up to shoot the start of a new day, but twenty-five years ago, I was a full-on, hard-core, all-night owl. The only time I ever saw the dawn was if I was still awake from the previous evening…
But that’s a whole nother story for a whole nother time...
The musical story today begins with this beautiful, felonious, reprobate alien:
David Bowie's notoriously glamorous Rochester, NY Police Department 1976 mugshot from the time he was busted with Iggy Pop for possession. Still obviously channeling his Thomas Jerome Newton character from The Man Who Fell to Earth, it always looked to me as though the inspiration for the cover art of Low came from this profile pic, rather than a still from the movie... Low profile, hah!
On the threshold of superstardom, David Bowie at Haddon Hall by Mick Rock, 1972
So... Because I've been around a while and - with a few exceptions - I think in terms of decades, rather than years, I’ll begin in the decade where it all started - for me anyway - the ‘70s. The original source of my interest in contemporary music and the beginnings of my (and many others’) Bowie-freakery... Starman. Top of the Pops. 1972. You know the thing. If you don’t, do yourself a favour and frikkin look it up. It signaled the dazzling dawn of a new theatricality in modern music, of a sparkling proto-punk glitz & glamour that rejected previous leaden notions of propriety in rock. The worthy and accomplished but rather-too-serious and pompous progressive meanderings of the likes of ELP and Yes (no offence, guys but, you know, come on...) abruptly out of frikkin nowhere had a bright & beautiful, weird & wonderful challenge from this scrawny, snaggle-toothed, makeup-slathered, upstart suburban androgyne with a spiky vermilion barnet. He was a wild mutation of trenchant cuteness in scintillating, super-camp, skin-tight onesie and crimson patent high-lace DMs, swivelling an electric-blue twelve-string around his titchy torso. He put his ray gun to our heads and sang his hazy cosmic jive frikkin straight & camp to the isolated, to the repressed, to the sexually ambivalent, to all the bright young things trapped in the drab and dreary living-rooms of grotesque 1970s Normalsville... “I had to 'phone someone so I picked on you-hoo-hoo!” OMG! Me?! And, in that most cosmically infinitesimal yet most infinitely cosmic of moments, in all his divine finery, he at once rallied the legion teenage wildlife, insulted the tawdry establishment, offended the parental generation and disrespected the trad rockers. Joyous. And, from that moment on, along with my freak brothers and sisters, wherever they were, I was loving the alien.
From the cover shoot for Aladdin Sane, by Mark Duffy, 1973. Eyes wide open. I think I prefer this TBH.
Of course the TOTP performance appears somewhat tamely camp now, but almost half a century ago, on end-of-the-week UK telly, in three and a half radically-crazy minutes, David Bowie beamed down to earth, straight into our lives and showcased a dazzling vignette of an embryonic new era of sound and vision. With due and reverential respect to the insurgencies of Little Richard, Elvis, The Beatles and The Stones, it was as abrupt a moment of clarity, as much a sacred epiphany in contemporary musical culture as there has ever been.
With the album that followed, 'The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars', he blew us all away. Within its forty five minutes of symphonic rock, over two sides of hallowed RCA vinyl, Bowie presented us with the tale of a suicidal rock star’s ascent into wild celebrity and his rapid descent into self-destructive oblivion; he simultaneously fused themes of isolation and detachment with moods of desperate optimism and demented celebration; and mashed it all up against a backdrop of a pre-apocalyptic alien visitation on an urbanised populace gone nuts. It was darkness and disgrace, it was jamming-good with Weird & Gilly, it was jiving us that we were voodoo, it was a freak-out in a moonage daydream and all the other yummy-scrumptious lyrical deliciousness he made us memorise... Geez, it was a wondrous thing to savour and behold and, as it fast approaches its 50th anniversary, it still is.
And that was it. The Jean-Genie was out the bottle; he'd opened strange doors that we'd never close again. The worlds of music and popular culture, not to mention mine, were changed forever. Thank f**k.
So (for now at least) I’ll end it there; at the beginning.
Although it is also the start of my list... My hot 100, or thereabouts...
And you'll no doubt be pleased to hear, it's just pictures from here-on today... So, I'll let the sleeve art do the talking.
Oh ye, before I go, here's a little game I made, for the lolz and the freaks, called: 'pin the year on the Bowie'. Simply match the date to the pic. Go on, you know you want to...
1972, 1973, 1975, 1976, 1978, 1980, 1983, 1995 and 2002.
Until next time...
Finally... Geez... Here it is. The whole point of the post. The hot 100.
Hunky Dory by David Bowie 1971
Electric Warrior by T Rex, 1971
The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars by David Bowie, 1972
Exile on Main Street by The Rolling Stones, 1972
Roxy Music by Roxy Music, 1972
Transformer by Lou Reed 1973
Aladdin Sane by David Bowie, 1973
For Your Pleasure by Roxy Music, 1973
The Psychomodo by Cockney Rebel 1974
The End by Nico, 1974
Phaedra by Tangerine Dream, 1974
Here Come the Warm Jets by Brian Eno, 1974
Diamond Dogs by David Bowie, 1974
Radioactivity by Kraftwerk, 1975
Wish You Were Here by Pink Floyd, 1975
Another Green World by Brian Eno, 1975
Low by David Bowie, 1976
Arrival by Abba, 1976
The Idiot by Iggy Pop, 1977
Pink Flag by Wire, 1977
Before and After Science by Brian Eno, 1977
Trans Europe Express by Kraftwerk, 1977
The Clash 1977
"Heroes" by David Bowie, 1977
D.o.A by Throbbing Gristle, 1978
Public Image First Issue by Public Image Ltd, 1978
Reproduction by The Human League, 1978
This Years Model by Elvis Costello, 1978
The Man Machine by Kraftwerk, 1978
Some Girls by The Rolling Stones, 1978
Lodger by David Bowie, 1979
The Wall by Pink Floyd, 1979
Broken English by Marianne Faithfull, 1979
Unknown Pleasures by Joy Division, 1979
Fear of Music by Talking Heads, 1979
Atmosphere by Joy Division, 1980
Closer by Joy Division, 1980
Scary Monsters and Super Creeps by David Bowie, 1980
LKJ in DUB by Linton Kwesi Johnson, 1980
Emotional Rescue by The Rolling Stones, 1980
Remain in Light by Talking Heads, 1980
Movement by New Order, 1981
My Life in the Bush of Ghosts by Brian Eno and David Byrne, 1981
Fourth Wall by The Flying Lizards, 1981
Computer World by Kraftwerk, 1981
Scientist Meets the Space Invaders, 1981
Big Science by Laurie Anderson, 1982
Speaking in Tongues, Talking Heads, 1983
Apollo: Atmospheres and Soundtracks by Brian Eno, 1983
Let's Dance by David Bowie, 1983
The Pearl by Harold Budd, Brian Eno and Daniel Lanois, 1984
"Hatful of Hollow" by The Smiths, 1984
Hounds of Love by Kate Bush, 1985
The Queen is Dead by The Smiths, 1986
Evening Star by Robert Fripp and Brian Eno, 1986
The Colour of Spring by Talk Talk, 1986
Home of the Brave by Laurie Anderson, 1986
"Strangeways, Here We Come" by The Smiths, 1986
Solo Piano by Philip Glass, 1989
Strange Angels by Laurie Anderson, 1989
Passion by Peter Gabriel, 1989
Disintegration by The Cure, 1989
Violator by Depeche Mode, 1990
Screamadelica by Primal Scream, 1991
Silence by Pete Namlook, 1992
Nerve Net by Brian Eno, 1992
Selected Ambient Works by Aphex Twin, 1992
Songs of Faith and Devotion by Depeche Mode, 1993
Transmissions by Juno Reactor, 1993
Portuguese Requiem Masses by Schola Cantorum of Oxford, 1993
Bright Red by Laurie Anderson, 1994
Dummy by Portishead, 1994
Triptomatic Fairytales by Jam & Spoon, 1994
1. Outside by David Bowie, 1995
Nerv by Eternal Basement, 1995
Air 2 by Pete Namlook, 1996
Present by Sun Electric, 1996
"Trip Tease" The Seductive Sounds of Tipsy by Tipsy, 1997
Homogenic by Bjork, 1997
Mystic Cigarettes by Saafi Brothers, 1997
Clandestino by Manu Chao, 1998
Headcleaner by Atmos, 2000
Uh-Oh by Tipsy, 2001
Heathen by David Bowie, 2002
The Eminem Show by Eminem, 2002
Blood Money by Tom Waites, 2002
Get Rich or Die Tryin' by 50 Cent, 2003
Encore by Eminem, 2004
Another Day on Earth by Brian Eno, 2005
The Alternative by IAMX, 2006
'Robyn' by Robyn, 2007
Untrue by Burial, 2007
Super Taranta! by Gogol Bordello, 2007
Chromophobia by Gui Boratto, 2007
Street Horrrsing by Fuck Buttons, 2008
Growl by Radioactive Man, 2008
Wobble Factor by Tipper, 2008
Tarot Sport by Fuck Buttons, 2009
Body talk by Robyn, 2010