Sunday, December 27, 2009


As my excellent friend and (already!) long-suffering publicist Lady Gail-Gail will ruefully affirm, I am avidly into retro porn — but more for aesthetic than prurient reasons. That is to say, I don’t look at it as I used to look at the Lili St. Cyr ads in the backs of gentlemen’s magazines, in order to work myself into a priapic frenzy. I just think it’s cute and endearing.

It’s probably no coincidence that my favorite stuff is from the early ‘60s – that is, from right around the time my own hormones were beginning to shout, “Hey, you! You’re almost 15; reproduce already!” I swoon at the sight of the bouffant hair and excessive eyeliner (inspired by Elizabeth Taylor’s in Cleopatra?) so fashionable in that era, and then am overwhelmed by simultaneous feelings of regret and relief. At the time, painfully shy as I was, I’d have been as likely to try to talk to one of the bouffant hotties at Orville Wright Junior High School as to have tried out for the US Olympic team as a gymnast, and my natural clumsiness made the weeks that we concentrated on gymnastics in PE purest torture. Thus, it’s a relief to realize that the big-haired young beauties on the retro porn sites, now in their 60s and even 70s, would no longer intimidate me. The downside, of course, being the realization that I’m in my 60s or even 70s now too, old enough to be asked, not entirely credulously, by people who see photographs from the days when I was a smoldering Semitic rock and roll sexpot, “Izzat you?”

Speaking of bouffant hair, I think we can agree, now that rock and roll is officially dead, that The Who, circa 1967, were the greatest rock and roll group ever. All they had, and were, was…everything. They were glamorous, and funny, and terrifying, and tuneful, and pulverizing, cerebral and brutish, deeply introspective and wildly exhibitionistic all at once. Nothing was what it appeared with them, with the possible exception of Mr. Moon taking too much of whatever he was taking. The smallest and most effeminate-looking of them, Roger Daltrey, he of the bouffant orange hair and antique shawls, was actually the group thug. They recorded sweet, airy three-part vocal harmonies, and then, on stage, scared you half to death. Even the one who barely moved on stage was intriguing in his own right -- jaw-droppingly virtuosic. God, how I loved them. The last 42 years haven’t produced a group who can begin to challenge their memory.

But that doesn’t mean there isn’t some glorious music being made. As far as this century is concerned, I believe that Sigur Ros’s inexpressibly beautiful, mournful recorded music towers over everyone else’s. (For two decades in a row now, my favorite music has been recorded by artists who don't sing in recognizable English; Ros sing in their native Icelandic, and the Cocteau Twins sang gibberish.) The UK’s Delays and Brooklyn’s Depreciation Guild are quite wonderful too, and I’ve never enjoyed a rockabilly group more than I enjoy The Lucky Cupids, whose Andrej Rudolf might be thought of as the new Chris Isaak, but with an irresistible Slovenian accent.

I can’t help but believe that Western tastemakers’ energy would be far better spent trying to foment a Slovenian Invasion than in writing 25 more biographies of Iggy fucking Pop. He was indisputably revelatory in his day, but his day was 40 years ago, for Pete's sake.

Some of my Ramones T-shirted cohorts’ disinclination to investigate new music reminds me of how people of my parents’ generation dismissed The Beatles. Glenn Miller and Benny Goodman…now that was music.

[Facebookers: Read lots more little For All In Tents and Porpoises essays and subscribe here.]

No comments:

Post a Comment