Posts Tagged ‘1960s’

Nina Simone’s Revolution, After 40 Years

Monday, August 17th, 2009

While hippies were rolling in the mud out on Max Yasgur’s farm, Nina Simone was singing for another outdoor concert in Central Park.  It was August 17, 1969, and Revolution was in the air.  The Harlem Festival was later known as the “Black Woodstock.” As NPR’s Guy Raz explains:

There are about 50 hours of footage from the festival. The man who filmed it, Hal Tulchin, has said, at the time, there was no interest in turning that footage into a documentary, so most of it has just been collecting dust. The only parts that have been released commercially are Nina Simone’s performances, including this clip.

Gravity’s Rainbow Turns Noir In L.A.

Saturday, August 15th, 2009

Critic John Powers on Thomas Pynchon’s new novel, Inherent Vice:

I know people who swear that Pynchon has saved their lives. But I know others who say he is literally unreadable. Nobody will say that about “Inherent Vice,” his loosey-goosey new take on the L.A. private eye yarn. The scene is Gordita Beach, 1970, and the Age of Aquarius is yawning, not dawning. The detective is Larry Doc Sportello, a short big-haired stoner who’s closer to Elliott Gould’s Philip Marlowe than to Humphrey Bogart’s. As for the case, well, it begins with a woman, Doc’s ex-flame, Shasta… the book brims with Pynchon’s trademark silliness, from characters with names like Jason Velveeta and Sledge Poteet, to elaborate riffs on pop culture - for instance an imaginary TV movie called “Godzilligan’s Island,” or a hilarious discussion of Charlie the Tuna’s death wish.

via Fresh Air | read more | listen

Café Mouffe: Fare Thee Well, Mike Seeger

Saturday, August 8th, 2009

Mike Seeger – singer, virtuoso instrumentalist, steward of American folk music traditions – died Friday night at 75. According to NPR, Seeger’s “love for traditional songs and tunes inspired many other musicians — including Bob Dylan .

Seeger was a highly respected performer and collector of traditional music and a major force in giving rural Southern musicians a wider audience. He became a spark plug for the revival of interest in American music traditions in the second half of the 20th century.

He was born into a prominent musical family. His half-brother Pete and sister Peggy are renowned musicians and social activists. His father, Charles, was a folklorist. His mother, Ruth Crawford Seeger, was a music scholar, teacher and classical composer. Read more/listen now.

Mike Seeger tells how Elizabeth Cotton became part of that extraordinary family when he sings her classic song, Freight Train.

I have a memory of hearing Mike Seeger with Hazel and Alice in Yellow Springs sometime in the late 60s or early 70s. But it may be that I only heard a recording of a Kelly Hall concert on the radio, internalizing it deeply. Alice Gerard’s soft keening clarity on Quiero Decir Gracias echoes the springwater pouring out of the Blackhand sandstone below the ridgetop at my grandpa’s farm.

Encore:Listen to Seeger’s banjo on Bob Dylan’s The Ballad of Hollis Brown. The times were a-changin’ then. Find more Mike Seeger clips.

Café Mouffe opens on Fridays. Please drop by for a listen and a chat. Sometimes the embedded videos don’t work here due to bandwidth constraints, but you’ll always find links to video sources in the notes. Try them. If you’re curious about the Mouffe, here’s the original idea behind it’s creation.

Mouffe at the Movies: Sue Lyon’s Lolita

Friday, July 17th, 2009

We finished Vladimir Nabokov’s Lolita today — reading it aloud, mind you — and almost immediately asked ourselves the question posed by the trailer for Stanley Kubrick’s 1962 movie adaptation. “How could they make a movie out of Lolita?” My guess is that the film minimizes Humbert Humbert’s monstrous delusional transgressions, instead playing up Lolita’s seductive precocity. That pop culture myth of Lolita dates back beyond the movie to the best-selling novel’s U.S. publication. In 1959, Robertson Davies claimed that Lolita is “not the corruption of an innocent child by a cunning adult, but the exploitation of a weak adult by a corrupt child.” Her name has been synonymous with such a blame-the-victim reversal of responsibility ever since.

We’ve ordered the DVD of the original film with Sue Lyon starring in the title role. I’ll try to withhold judgment until we watch it. For now, here is a clip montage from the movie (what is the sound track?) and a photo tribute to Sue Lyon set to Donovan’s “Sunshine Superman.” Lyon and Donovan dated for a time in the 60s until he surreptitiously slipped her some LSD in a drink. Any trick in the book. Was Donovan channeling Humbert Humbert? Or is this an Internet myth/bad flashback?

Let’s Lift A Toast To The Burning River

Monday, June 22nd, 2009

If Great Blue Herons are part of your quality of life, please join me in lifting a toast to the Cuyahoga River. When the river caught on fire in Cleveland 40 years ago today, it became a tipping point in rallying support for passage of the Clean Water Act. Even Richard Nixon had to concede that something needed to be done to curb the pollution of our waterways. Eventually the fish came back, and the herons followed. What am I drinking tonight? A Cleveland microbrew called Burning River Pale Ale.

Be not deceived. This isn't 1969, or you'd see psychedelic colors. This is the Cuyahoga River fire on Nov. 3, 1952. I haven’t found a good image from 1969, which was a flash in the pan by comparison. [Source: Cleveland State University Library/Ohio History Central]

Be not deceived. This isn’t 1969, or you’d see psychedelic colors. This is the Cuyahoga River fire on Nov. 3, 1952. I haven’t found a good image from 1969, which was a flash in the pan by comparison. [Source: Cleveland State University Library/Ohio History Central]

Jonesing for Saint Germain des Prés

Saturday, June 13th, 2009

Returning to Jazz A Saint Germain at yesterday’s Mouffe sent me searching for that album’s cover track, Debbie Harry’s version of “Il N’Y a Plus d’Apres.” I couldn’t find it on YouTube, but Juliette Greco is just as alluring, especially for the grainy 60s feel of the street footage. That made me jones all the more for Saint-Germain des Prés. I’m not alone in this yearning. What other neighborhood has tributes like these produced by Peterkein and DiegoHCantor?

Café Mouffe Encore: The Medium is the Massage

Saturday, February 21st, 2009

McLuhan - The Medium is the Massage 2.1 by MyCluein: The Medium is the Massage excerpt from the 1967 audio book of the same name. The entire recording is at Ubu Web Sound.

George Plimpton & The Paris Review

Tuesday, December 2nd, 2008

A cocktail party at George Plimpton’s apartment in 1963; Plimpton is seated at left. [Photo by Cornell Capa/Magnum Photos/NYT]
A cocktail party at George Plimpton’s apartment in 1963; Plimpton is seated at left. [Photo by Cornell Capa/Magnum Photos/NYT]

Vanity Fair editor Graydon Carter wrote a long essay in the NYT Book Review based on George, Being George, a new oral history of the Paper Lion. Following a recent publishing trend that seems to hark back to the 18th century, the book has a whopper of a subtitle: “George Plimpton’s Life as Told, Admired, Deplored, and Envied by 200 Friends, Relatives, Lovers, Acquaintances, Rivals — and a Few Unappreciative Observers.”

Here’s a passage about the salad days of The Paris Review:

Like so many other smart young men of his age and wherewithal, George followed the example of the Lost Generation and headed to Paris. Back at home, there were headlines about the Korean War and Joseph ­McCarthy. On the Left Bank, says Bill Becker, a Harvard classmate: “We were living like kings. In Paris, on the black market in the mid-1950s, you could exchange a dollar for 600 francs.” Hotel rooms cost 300 francs a night; a decent meal with a bottle of Beaujolais was a little more than half that. Styron came. So did Terry Southern and James Baldwin, and Robert Silvers and Peter Duchin lived on a barge docked near the Place de l’Alma. A number of this new generation were secretly recruited into the newly formed Central Intelligence Agency — the cold-war offspring of the wartime O.S.S. (nicknamed Oh So Social).

It is a common misperception that George founded The Paris Review. He did not. Like so many other things in this gilded life, it was given to him — in this case by its creators Matthiessen, a classmate at St. Bernard’s, and Harold Humes, known as Doc, who asked him to be its editor. Arguably though, without him the magazine, like so many similar small journals, would have sputtered and died after a few issues. The first number, with a minimal circulation in England, the United States and Europe, established the DNA for what it would remain for the next half-century. Donald Hall, who later became poet laureate, served as poetry editor. Styron, already celebrated for “Lie Down in Darkness,”wrote the introduction. And the first of volumes of Paris Review interviews kicked off with one with E. M. Forster, the man who, it was said, became more famous with every book he didn’t write. George had made the connection with Forster at Cambridge. And Andrew Leggatt, a former classmate, says, “It was typical of George’s luck, wasn’t it, that he should have known personally such a great literary figure from the past who would be prepared to give him the kind of interview that would subsequently become a classic.”

I am reliably informed that little magazines comprise four elements: shabby, cramped quarters; meager wages; attractive interns of independent means; and boundless enthusiasm. They are also excellent excuses for throwing parties. In Paris, the canteen was the Café le Tournon, near the magazine’s tiny office on the rue Garancière. Friends say George lived a particularly elastic Left Bank/Right Bank existence, editing during the day followed by drinks at the bar of the Ritz or the Crillon. When he relocated the review to New York, he brought his social-­engineering skills with him. He held fund-raising “Revels” at bohemian palaces like the Village Gate and later at his home at 541 East 72nd Street, which doubled as living accommodation for him and his family and offices for the magazine. A consummate host, he shouted a guest’s name above a crowd as a form of welcome. “Bring a pretty girl,” he would tell interns like David Michaelis, who worked at the magazine in the mid-’70s. “He always said it when he invited me to a party, and I heard him say it to other young men later. . . . It was like an Irwin Shaw story, that lovely midcentury feeling.”

And indeed, there were all manner of interesting men and interesting and pretty young women. Talese’s Esquire article on George openswith one of his parties, and on a night when Jackie Kennedy came by. And there is that famous Life photograph [above] by Cornell Capa, taken the same year, of a party at George’s that is as much a midcentury New York period piece as Billy Wilder’s films “The Seven Year Itch” or “The Apartment.” Throughout the vast living room are women in pinch-waist cocktail dresses and men in smart suits with thin ties. In the picture you can spot Capote, Styron and Vidal, as well as Ralph Ellison, Frank and Eleanor Perry, Mario Puzo, Arthur Penn and Arthur Kopit. At one of George’s parties, Mailer and Humes got into a fight. “I remember George seizing me from behind in an iron grip that I could not get out of,” Mailer says. “Because he was around so many people, boxers, football players, who were stronger than him, he never bothered to discuss his strength. But I remember thinking, ‘God damn it, that guy is strong.’ ”

Barney Rosset and the Tropic of Cancer

Wednesday, November 19th, 2008

One of my First Amendment heroes, Grove Press publisher Barney Rosset, received a lifetime achievement award today from the National Book Foundation. Rosset published the first American edition of Henry Miller’s Tropic of Cancer, and he fought all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court for the right to do so. He tells the story to Brooke Gladstone at On the Media. Listen and you’ll get the added bonus of hearing Henry read a snippet of the Parisian ex-pat classic:

This, then, this is not a book. This is libel, slander, defamation of character. This is not a book in the ordinary sense of the word. No, this is a prolonged insult, a gob of spit in the face of art, a kick in the pants to God, Man, Destiny, Time, Love, Beauty, what you will.

Rosset notes that Miller was indifferent to censorship, but Samuel Beckett objected to it fervently. His Waiting for Godot had been banned in the U.K. in the 1950s for its use of the word “erection”:

VLADIMIR: Well, what do we do now?


VLADIMIR: Yes, but while waiting.

ESTRAGON: How about hangin’ ourselves?

VLADIMIR: Mm, it might give us an erection.

ESTRAGON: An erection?

VLADIMIR: With all that follows. Where it falls, mandrakes grow. That’s why they shriek when you pull them up. Did you not know that?

ESTRAGON: Let’s hang ourselves immediately!

One more factoid, then you can read the complete OTM transcript. Cops across America were instructed to read only one page of Tropic of Cancer (it happened to be page five) for proof of smut. Then they would arrest the booksellers. So the next time you find a tattered copy in a used bookstore, guewss what page will be dog-eared?