on life, music etc beyond mainstream

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Planet Earth is better experienced from way up high at the moment.


Rick (Holland) 



Liebeslieder schreiben (schnippt mit den Fingern), das können nur Männer. Ich weiß auch nicht, warum. Aber Männer schreiben Liebeslieder meist mit einer gewissen Distanz, nicht selten mit böser Ironie und einem unschlagbaren Humor. Und flammender Sexualität. Wenn ein Liebeslied in Flammen aufgeht und zur gleichen Zeit grinst, dann ist es ein gutes Liebeslied.


Juliette Gréco im Gespräch mit Max Dax, aus: Max Dax – Dreißig Gespräche


2016 28 Jul


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Es gibt diese Anekdote über einen Cellisten, der immer nur denselben Ton spielt, tagaus, tagein. Als seine Frau ihm von einem Konzertbesuch vorschwärmt und einem Orchester, das vielfältige Melodien erklingen ließ, entgegnet er trocken, die würden alle noch suchen, er aber habe den richtigen Ton bereits gefunden. Der Gedanke daran kam, als ich gestern zufällig einen Song anklickte auf dem MP3 Player, der einen leichten Anflug klimatisch bedingter Misslaunigkeit im Nu in Heiterkeit umstimmte: „So May It Secretly Begin“. Als Ton wäre er der eine Richtige, hörte ich ihn doch so oft wie keinen zweiten. Manche Lieder sind wie Lebensabschnittsgefährten, das hier wäre als eine Langzeitbeziehung zu nennen – und dann das Album mit dem wundersamen Titel Still Life (Talking) erst, aus dem es stammt: da sind auch andere Perlen darauf zu finden. Hört man Kumpel Pats Gitarrensolo im Stück „Third Wind“ etwa, ahnt man, was es heisst, mittels des Gitarrenspiels zu fliegen. Der Gesamtsound klingt wie ein feingliedriges, osmotisches Uhrwerk. Schlagzeuger Paul Wertico und der brasilianische Perkussionist Armando Marçal bilden die Rhythmusgruppe. High End Präzision und organische Lebensfreude. Sons of Pioneers. Live-Konzerte dieser Band waren immer Highlights. In my childhood dreams I was a Redskin: Sioux, Apache or Cheyenne. Der Pat Metheny Group hier widme ich das höchste Prädikat: Indianermusik.

Einst, als Martin Scorsese einige richtig gute Filme machte, hatte er noch ein kluges Gespür für Soundtracks, und auch mal Bernard Hermann zur Seite. Später, als er wieder einen Mafiafilm drehte, kippte er eine ganze Jukebox voller Songs über die Bilder, und schwächte, Lied um Lied, das Werk, das zum Machwerk wurde. (Wie später auch, in seinem lächerlich überhöhenden Rolling Stones-Film!). Hier, in der ersten Staffel von Hap and Leonard, geht es einmal mehr um den Gesang (und Abgesang) alter Zeiten (Scorsese hat nichts damit zu tun), und es läuft, an einer fast unmöglichen Stelle, als es nicht zuletzt ums Sterben geht, Scott MacKenzie’s Uralthymne. Man empfindet unmittelbar, so geht es, und das Lied trifft einen wie beim ersten Hören. Nur ganz woanders. „No Direction Home“: diese drei Worte könnten einem da einfallen, und somit gleich ein weiteres, wiederum brilliantes Martin Scorsese-Opus.



2016 27 Jul


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Not a water tank or a gasometer. This is the SCHILLEROPER in Hamburg-Altona — a construction made from steel and corrugated metal, erected in 1892 as a residential circus building, the only circus with a ring that could be flooded for a water ballet.

In the 1920s, it became an opera house, a theater and varieté, Hans Albers had his first stage appearences here. During the Nazi era the building was used as a meeting place by the local SS as well as by communists, which led to brawls and shootings sometimes, and then, after the war … nothing really happened anymore.

Nobody had an idea what to do with this complex of buildings. In the 1970s, the buildings around the rotunda, the former foyer and artist’s dressing rooms were used as dwelling for Italian „guest workers“, as they were called then, later it became a restaurant which had to be closed after a while because of illegal gambling. It became a music club, and when that failed …



This is how the building looks today. It cannot be torn down because the steel construction is under protection, but the whole complex is so down and out … I’m sure today’s owners (a community of heirs) is simply waiting till the whole building breaks down by itself.

This has always been the way Hamburg uses to deal with its cultural treasures.

2016 27 Jul

Seven of cups reversed

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Silence, and symphony.

(January 2013)


Hi Michael,

Here’s my list, with apologies for taking so long — confluence of holidays and the difficulties encapsulated in that old Lovin‘ Spoonful chestnut, „Did You Ever Have To Make Up Your Mind?“ Please let me know if you need more info/have any questions/etc. Thanks again for asking me to do this — great fun!

All best,



The only album here that gets any kind of ranking is Horses, which comes in at Number One. The rest are in no particular order. I love ‘em all.


1. Patti Smith, Horses


Along with the Beatles’ single “She Loves You“, which I heard on a car radio (not our car; it didn’t have a radio) as a six-year-old, this is the record that changed my life. I’d read about Patti Smith and got this album on the day it came out in 1975, riding my bike to New Canaan and buying it at the record store there. When I put it on the stereo at my parents’ house and heard the opening piano chords followed by Smith intoning “Jesus died for somebody’s sins but not mine,” I got goosebumps. I couldn’t believe this chick was saying that without getting struck by lightning. When I heard “Land,” I had an out-of-body experience. For me as an artist, everything has been before and after that song.


2. Iggy Pop, Lust for Life


This is here solely because of the title track, one of the greatest rock and roll songs of all time. I never listen to much else on the album, though “Turn Blue” is pretty great. I had a long list of Top Ten albums distinguished by a single cut; this is the only one that made it to the finals.


3. Joanna Newsom, The Sprout and the Bean


I know it’s twee, and I know some people can’t stand her voice. But I love this album. It reminds me of when I wrote “Illyria” in a three-week fever with this album on nearly constant rotation. Newsom’s fey voice and lyrics, and the delicate, dreamy production, all conspire to make me feel like I’m seventeen again, and anything could happen.


4. Fleet Foxes, Fleet Foxes


This is such a purely gorgeous album that, despite having heard it hundreds of times, sometimes two or three times in a row, I still don’t know the title of any of the songs — it’s all one prismatic sonic blur. My favorite line (also the only line I know): “Scarves of red tied ‚round their throats/To keep their little heads from falling in the snow.”


5. Replacements, Pleased to Meet Me


I have probably heard this album thousands of times since 1986, when my friend Paul Witcover gave me a tape. He was a big ‘Mats fan and saw them whenever they played NYC during their glory days with Bob Stinson; I was living in DC at the time and to my eternal regret never got to see them live, with or without Bob. “Valentine” is one of my five all-time favorite songs, up there with “Be My Baby” and “Land.” And if “Skyway” doesn’t make your heart ache, your heart is made of lead. My only complaint: I find the chorus of “Valentine” impossible to sing aloud.


6. Wilco, Summerteeth


Another album I must have listened to almost every day for a decade. I finally put it aside last year, and this morning found myself in the mood to dig it out again. Beautiful and eerie; the sunny “Pet Sounds” production belies the dark lyrics. You could write an entire essay about the influence of “Pet Sounds” on“Pieholden Suite,” though my favorite song is the alternate version of the brilliant “A Shot in the Arm,” a hidden track (along with “Candyfloss”) which gives “Sergeant Pepper” era John Lennon a run for his money in under four minutes. Gorgeous, desperate, and so dark it’s exquisitely painful to listen to. “Maybe all I need is a shot in the arm/Something in my veins, bloodier than blood.” An entire hidden thread of my life had this as its soundtrack (note: nothing to do with drugs). “You’ve changed: What you once were isn’t what you want to be anymore.”


7. Lou Reed, Magic and Loss


When I was nineteen, I wanted to be Lou Reed when I grew up. I loved the Velvet Undergound, and “Berlin” was one of my favorite albums in high school. Later, when I was in my late thirties, I heard this album and realized that “Magic and Loss” was Lou Reed when he grew up. It’s a wrenching look at mortality, centered on the deaths of two of Reed’s close friends and backgrounded in the AIDS epidemic, then at its height, and one of the few rock and roll albums with songs set in a hospital room. Yet it’s never depressing — Reed’s rage, always one of his best traits, is on ample display here, along with his caustic wit. The final track, “Magic and Loss: The Summation,” is the most purely transcendent rock and roll song ever written, and perhaps the greatest song ever penned about the torments and transformations of living life as an artist. Whenever I feel despair about my writing, I play this song, and I got my first tattoo — a ring of flames — as a reminder of its message.


8. Velvet Underground: Bootleg Series Volume 1: The Quine Tapes 9. Legendary stint at The Family Dog, San Francisco, in November 1969


I’ve always felt that putting down a Best Of album as a desert island disc choice is a cheat, and this selection is the closest I come to doing that. But it really does contain the greatest renditions of many of VU’s best songs. Recorded during the band’s legendary 1969 stints at The Family Dog and The Matrix in San Francisco (a city totally at odds with the Velvet Underground’s NYC ethos) by Robert Quine, who held a cheap tape recorder in his lap, the bootleg captures a remarkable moment in rock and roll history. Volume 2 never appeared, but I don’t know if it’s necessary. The live version of “Rock and Roll” is sublime — Lou Reed in is his intro to the song actually sounds happy. And the endless versions of “Sister Ray,” clocking in at 28 and 38 minutes, are fantastic.


9. Nick Drake, Bryter Layter


Drake’s greatest album, recorded before his beautiful, bleak swan song, “Pink Moon” and produced by the legendary Joe Boyd, who wrote about it at length in his memoir “White Bicycles.” Richard Thompson, Dave Pegg, and Dave Mattacks of Fairport Convention contributed, along with John Cale and several Beach Boys sessions musicians. Richard Kirby did the string arrangements, whose influence can be felt in contemporary folk musicians like Joanna Newsom, Fleet Foxes, Florence and the Machine, and Devendra Barnhart. The result is a shimmering masterpiece that lingers in the mind like the best, most ephemeral dream you ever had. And “Northern Sky” is a love song for the ages.


10. Beach Boys, Pet Sounds


It’s almost impossible to listen to any pop music of the last forty years and not hear echoes of „Pet Sounds“, one of the greatest and most influential rock albums of all time. Actually, it’s probably impossible to sit anywhere on Earth and watch the sun set and not think of „Pet Sounds“. Every song is perfect. Whatever drugs Brian Wilson was taking, I want some.



2016 26 Jul

Every dog has his day

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The dog we’re looking for doesn’t play jazz standards. No, he never learnt the piano. Laurie Anderson’s dog was much more talented. So you will never listen to his version of „Over the Rainbow“. Otherwise, old compadre Henning Bolte would have shot some game-changing photographs. A sweating dog and his blue notes. In an old jazz club, rive gauche, me, oh my.

Last week I’ve been in the hospital. Now I’m returning to the every day routines of my private-eye office. Writing a lecture, diving into the early short films of Buster Keaton, preparing journeys to the sea. Last week was special. I experienced wonderful human beings. With the exception of one day, I was feeling fine.

Before I went unconscious, I talked to a medicine student who was preparing my narcotics. Or something a bit more simple. I asked the blonde about her favourite TV-Show, she said: „Sex and the City“. She added: „That’s me“. She meant: high hopes and some real bad outcomes.

After I found out that her musical taste was rather middle-of-the-road, I gave her a musical remedy. Only idiots think that the mainstream has per se no healing power. Bullshit. So I told her to trust me blindly (easy, I tell you!) and listen extensively to Michael Kiwanuka’s new album. It would send her places. At that moment, 30 mg of Tranxilium, had sent me places.

But now, another job. For good hunters. A dog is missing. I know that  area very well. We are five people, and we will find the „Hirtenhund“. He is very shy cause he had been in the killing station too long. Found a new home. But with a certain degree of post-traumatic stress symptoms, he lost his mind (sense of place) in a moment of fragility, and startet to run. We will bring him back. At least we will give our best.



I grew up in Pennsylvania in a whorehouse. I read about Milton Hershey and his school in Coronet magazine or some other crap the girls left by the toilet. And I read that some orphans had a different life there. I could picture it. I dreamt of it. Of being wanted. Because the woman who was forced to raise me would look at me every day like she hoped I would disappear. Closest I got to feeling wanted was from a girl who made me go through her john’s pockets while they screwed. If I collected more than a dollar, she’d buy me a Hershey bar. And I would eat it alone in my room with great ceremony, feeling like a normal kid. It said „sweet“ on the package. It was the only sweet thing in my life.

(Don Draper)



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