Thursday, May 22, 2003


(I'm not at all sure about the wisdom of posting what follows here. After all, both the piece and the thing it parodies are almost five years (or 1000 scandal-cycles) old. But what the hell, I happened upon it while searching through my monitor-side box of important papers in vain search of any papers that might be justly deemed "important," and I have to admit, it's not bad. I have an especially fond memory of writing one particular paragraph in a fever of giddy creativity that almost never comes my way these days and that left me feeling as if my cranium was indeed in danger of melting. Anyway, here it is. Hope you like it. And if you do, heck, maybe I'll finish it one of these days.)

The following is excerpted from Jeannie Mullet's forthcoming memoir, Asleep on the Front Lawn of the World, to be published by Delaware School of Psychiatry Press in early 1999. Author's Note: The dialogue and all of the situations in this book have been reconstructed from memory to the best of my ability and under strict professional supervision. Since I was raised from my earliest days to be a vigilant, unimplicatable observer, I believe that if film footage, tape, or infra-red video existed documenting my life, or if such documentation hadn't all been destroyed in a series of unconnected and surely accidental fires over the last twenty-five years, it would bear a stunning similarity to what's reported here.

In the spring of my eighteenth year, I wrote a magazine article which proved to change my life forever. It appeared in the Veronica Lake Daily Newspaper on May 16, 1973. It was entitled "An 18-Year-Old Prodigy Considers Life, Society, Time, and Her Brobdignagian Struggle With Significance," and, although it was displaced by last-minute editorial jostling from the cover story of their Sunday supplement to the "Letters to the Editor" section, cut from 26,000 words to 150, and retitled "Local Girl Writes," it's fair to say that it was the most important article I've ever had published. In it I described coming of age in a time of social foment, prodigiously limned the details of the battle those of my generation were then waging with the encroaching forces of sociological malaise, and added a brief and pungent aside about my hometown's zoning laws, which was the only part that got printed. Even in that minuscule fragment, my discontent and world-weariness came shining out with crystalline clarity, not to mention the same finely-tuned wit and allegorical sensibility that inspired my creative writing professor at Rick's Community College to rave, "Shows some promise."

Yet this was only part of my story. I was born into the household of about two fiercely determined and ambitious parents, who had instilled in me from the first the desire to achieve great things, or at least to acquire great things and drive them across state lines if necessary. Before I had even learned to write, I was dictating poems, one-act plays, affidavits. My mother wrote down what I said and taught me how to make it better, strengthening my grammatical and expository skills using a variety of simple but extraordinarily effective methods which also helped me develop excellent penmanship in spite of the broken bones in my hands. Soon enough she gave me a typewriter, the act of giving alone demonstrating the stealth and breathtaking force of words as I caught it in my solar plexus. By 14, I had already been published in Young Girl magazine ("More Pictures of Davy, Please," reprinted in an annotated version in my forthcoming collection, Ruminations on God, Man, and Puppies), which led directly to a series of more ambitious pieces for the likes of The New Jerseyite, See and The National American, all of which were unanimously judged to be well ahead of their time (in fact, each of the editors of those periodicals sagely realized that my articles "[did] not fit the needs of [those] magazine[s] at [that] time" - and as of this writing, they remain so advanced), finally culminating in my Daily Newspaper opus. My mother, who had long encouraged me to "stay in [my] room and write, or whatever it is [I] do," to the point of keeping me padlocked inside for days on end to maintain and hone my compositional focus, was thrilled at my sudden success, though she was well enough aware of the dangers of unfettered praise on the creative ego to withhold her enthusiasm beyond a faux-dismissive wave of her hand, as if to say, Go. Don't rest on your laurels. Take it further. Get out of my kitchen. Actually, she vocalized that last part, but the implications (Create your own heat) were clear.

Predictably, the article caused quite a stir, and soon, letters were arriving on a daily basis in my mailbox. A well-known late-night talk-show sidekick proclaimed that I "may already have won" (through sheer talent and persistence, no doubt) millions of dollars, and enclosed the names of dozens of magazines that may be interested in my work, and encouraged me to choose as many as six of them, though he insisted that I was under no obligation to any of them. Invitations to join exclusive societies (a record and tape appreciation guild based in Columbia, a club for diners [those supping on the piquancies of our culture, unquestionably, though the exhortation was amusingly coy on that score]) were myriad, but it was one letter, secreted near the bottom of a stack of two I had received shortly after the article's publication, that rendered all others unimportant, a single typewritten page that has come to mean more to me than the dozens, nay hundreds, of fan letters, book offers, and cease-and-desist orders I have received in the years since. It was a personal letter from one of the greatest literary minds of our time, I.C. Seligman himself.

In truth, though I long considered him one of my literary heroes, I was perhaps the only 18-year-old in the country who hadn't read his classic paeans to youthful despair, The Receiver in the Wheat, Freda and Zippy, or Seymunki - A Book With That Title. In fact, I never read books at all because they give me sharp, throbbing headaches and then the bad people come out. But I knew well of him - his wild, prodigious talent so like my own, the legendary short stories he wrote at some point in the past for periodicals whose names escape me now, the fact that he lived in a house in some state with an "r" in it with his children if he had any. I had never in my wildest imaginings thought that such a genius would be interested in what I had to say, though I had put his name and address on the mailing list to receive my bi-weekly newsletter, Ecce Jeannie, just in case. There was no greater approbation for a young 18-year-old my age than to receive acknowledgement of my fresh, mercurial brilliance and insight from a man who probably wrote well like him.

I spent hours, days, hours poring over every nuance of his deceptively simple missive to me, studded as it was with obscured memoranda from the hidden corridors of his soul so subtle that only someone as perceptive as myself (preferably me) could pick them up. The way, for example, that my name in his salutation appeared in a different typeface and was slightly off-kilter from the rest of the letter - we hadn't even met and already he's symbolically separating me from the pack! (And the impish wit for which he was so renowned came through in his playful misspelling of my name, a touch so obviously influenced by Joyce, whoever she is.) Beyond that, Seligman opened up to me in ways I suspected one could only do in the company of strangers with whom they'd already formed a life-long bond. "Thank you for your kind letter," it began (demonstrating not only a rare and wonderful gratitude, but also a unique view of literature; in referring to the 38-page, single-spaced article I had sent him as a "letter," he taught me that all works of art, no matter how finely wrought, are as personal and as individual as correspondence). "It is always a pleasure to hear from my readers." (Note the subtle tinge of erotic longing.) "I never knew I had so many fans in Veronica Lake." (Here, again, he deliberately misaligned the proper noun, tacitly acknowledging the off-the-beaten-path nature of my hometown and my deep-seated feelings of alienation in it. What sensitivity lies within that skewed pica font!) "Your comments regarding my work are greatly appreciated (spoken like a true gourmand at the smorgasbord of the heart, looking for that extra serving of the potato salad of the peregrine spirit), as are any questions you may have asked (ever-questing, insatiably inquisitive, yes, I.C., yes, I see!). Unfortunately (are we not all mere slaves to fickle Kismet?, I.C. seems to be saying), due to the overwhelming volume of mail I receive ("overwhelming volume" - I was convulsed for hours at the Rabelaisian wit of that), I am unable (a particularly tricky nut to crack here - it took me six weeks of uninterrupted cognition to decipher the buried anagram here as "Mabel, u an' I," a delightfully bold invitation to a menage a trois. Sadly, I was never to meet this Mabel, but no doubt she was a saucy harpy/muse whose skin-tight vinyl jodhpurs and skillful proficiency with ostrich-skin belt and corn-cob holders would have given us both many hours of fulsome carnal diversion and provided fodder for many of the world-weary female protagonists in novels alas unwritten) to draft a personal reply at this time (and such a smooth segue from the interpersonal to the geopolitical! That accursed war!). Again, I thank you for taking the time to write and I send you my very best wishes (I don't think you need be a Freudian to divine what he was alluding to here). Sincerely (meaning, I think, that he was being sincere), I.C. Seligman (signed in a beautifully-rendered imitation of a rubber stamp imprint, yet another sly comment on the forced permanency of identity. It, too, was slightly askew, but I'll forestall any further analysis of that as my skull has begun to overheat again)."

In a word, I was flabbergasted. In two words, I was quite flabbergasted. In six words, I (two paragraphs omitted for reasons of space) That such a man would take such a consuming interest in a young woman whom he had yet to meet, much less broach matters both physical and philosophical in such a familiar (if oblique) manner was a source of no small amazement to me (though not unprecedented - Ernie Kovacs used to send me some rather obscene psychic messages through my television when I was a young girl until I had that problem taken care of). I don't know what it was that so enthralled me - perhaps it was the voice of experience that rang out, wizened but booming and resonant, from his letter (I was hearing some sort of voice, at any rate). Perhaps it was my desire for a mentor, someone to look up to in place of the father I never had (or, more precisely, to avoid the confusion of choosing among the four men who had been named in separate lawsuits as my father). In any event, I was compelled to respond. I spent several days carefully composing my reply, but musical notation seemed somehow insufficient, so I wrote him a letter instead.

I held nothing back. I told I.C. Seligman of my life here in this small New England town that was later discovered to be a dead Hollywood starlet (which would explain the exorbitant property values). I live a simpler life than most people my age, I tell him. I ride my bike three miles every day and hope to eventually leave the house with it. I don't enjoy writing much. I like finger painting, as it's the only body part I can reproduce convincingly, and relax by building dollhouses, hiking the utilities without prior notification, and throwing Barbie and Skipper out on their skinny polyethylene backsides. I don't have many friends. I thanked him profusely for his warmth, honesty and wisdom, and swore to carry what he told me to the grave, my own if need be. I completed my response and called the UPS man to come and haul it away, not knowing, having laid myself out so vulnerably, if the great man would ever respond in kind.

I need not have worried. Not two weeks later, but five, another letter arrived from Seligman. But for the fact that my name was even further off-kilter on the page and spelled with an ampersand this time, it was identical in every way to the first. The message was clear: the greatest truths are the simple ones and bear repeating; you should drop everything and come to Maizelike, New Hampshire to be with me immediately. I needed no further entreaty. I packed an overnight bag, jimmied the lock on my bedroom door, and set out on a journey of discovery that would ultimately prove tragic, revelatory, and very, very marketable.

Friday, May 16, 2003


(I'm gonna try and polish the rest of this off asap so's I can move on, and not make a sissy fuss about the 16 or so songs I've added since I started this - sometimes the only rock and roll I can relate to is the rock I endlessly roll up that goddamned hill of beans of mine...)

8. I'll cop to it - Throbbing Gristle was (is) a scam. Buncha pretentioid art-gits with a rare gift for making decadence and deviance seem kinda boring - heck, Genesis P-Orridge turned up in a recent issue of Musiq sporting a brand-new set of Richard Speck (no-)funbags and managed to look like Eddie Izzard imitating my Aunt Barbara, a vision that sounds at the very least diverting but was met by me with a yawn wide enough that my jaw became unhinged and I almost swallowed the cat. Artists? Sure, bullshit artists, albeit with a line of patter that all mod conmen would be happy to call their own; their third of the Burroughs/Gysin/Gristle issue of RE/Search way back in '81 was, when I first read it at age eighteen, an embarrassment of conceptual/philosphical riches (though the real embarrassment came when I tried re-reading it two years ago and discovered what an easy mark I was back then - I swear to God, if there'd been some bohemian death cult recruiters walking around Harvard Square in 1989, I'd've been dead from an arsenic latte long ago). And all this was quite exciting to me, especially since the only music of theirs I'd heard at the time was a two-minute fragment of something (to this day, I'm not sure what) heard through the weak signal of a far-off college radio station at the age of 13, which was so unlike anything I'd ever heard that I rushed to capture the last thirty seconds of it on tape just to prove I hadn't imagined it. (When I played it back, it didn't sound so weird to me at all, which should have told me something.) I was all fired up with intellectual-subversive adrenaline six months later, therefore, when an import copy of Throbbing Gristle's Greatest Hits (Entertainment Through Pain), draped in a nicely innocuous parody of a Martin Denny album sleeve, showed up at the mall record store. Took it home, quickly scanned the Claude Bessy liner notes and Cosey Fanny Tutti's gams, practically flung the thing onto my turntable, sat back and... was given one hell of an unpleasant education. Seems the media's sometimes not nearly as interesting as the message. Turns out that all the voluminous blather about "subversion" played itself out as banal drones and groans coaxed out of synths that its owners can barely play, occasionally subjected to wild, off-the-wall tricks like - ooh, watch out - running the tape backwards or fading a track out almost as soon as it begins, usually topped off with P-Orridge's vocals, which are usually so monotonous that to call them "deadpan" would be insult to both the dead and to pans. Granted, they happened into some pretty interesting cacophony sometimes and some similarly pretty interesting near-near-pop at others, and are one of the few electronic outfits to take the term "industrial music" seriously and literally (not so surprising, given that TG actually coined the phrase), as a lot of their recordings indeed resembled the dying throes of some broken-down factory. (And their pioneering work merely laid the groundwork for the excellent work they did after TG's initial split: the surprisingly vital run of singles [one of which even made it into a Volkswagen commercial] P-Orridge promulgated in Psychic TV, Peter "Sleazy" Christopherson's scary, multi-faceted, visionary work he whipped up both as leader of Coil and as an in-demand video auteur, and Chris and Cosey, um, did stuff too.) But the fact remains that much of their work only becomes explicable once it's explained at length, often great length, and while that's served to bolster some of their intentions w/r/t an audience's perception, media manipulation, etc., none of that means much when the music, the ostensible vehicle for these statements, winds up sounding so thin, dated and quaint.

So, why, you ask, did I include "Walkabout" on my playlist? Well, it is a radio station, after all, and three minutes of pleasant synth mumbles (yep, pleasant - I'm sure that's supposed to be some kind of statement in itself, but I haven't received the 56-page statement of intent yet) make for a nice leavening element between the usual yuks, jangles, plaints and shrieks. And besides, it's a handy reminder that Jim O'Rourke's starting to run out of Nicolas Roeg-inspired album titles.

Monday, May 12, 2003


6. This is, of course, the Cramps' cover of the Bostweeds' classic tit-le tune from one of the two reasons right-thinking people still suffer Russ Meyer to live, Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill! More than that, though, this is a pivotal moment from the original schlockabilly combo (the band that didn't need a bass 'cause they were base enough to begin with) - more or less the precise instant that their obsessions shifted from EC comics to E cups, and, not coincidentally, the moment their album covers started getting more interesting than the stuff inside them. (And please, no comments about what these images make you want to stuff inside them - there are children present.) The beginning of the end, then, but still a worthy addition to the apocryphal bosomanical omnibook I just made up, The Tura Satanic Verses. (Let no bad pun go unuttered, sez I.)

7. Oh, so much to say about this scratched-up, ultra-gaudy piece of pubic zirconium from the infamous Spector/Cohen collaboration-cum-collision, Death of a Ladies' Man. So much, in fact, that I ain't saying a word. I've actually been assigned to write about this album for a book project, and it's probably best to practice a kind of tantric/Kundalinic meditative-abstinence approach to saying anything about it, in honor of Laughin' Lenny's monastic period. Better that than to shout my opinion of it while unloading my gat into some aging B-movie actress, in honor of... well, you know.

Thursday, May 08, 2003


5. Sloan is one of my pet underrated pop bands (hardly a description wet with specificity, seeing as every band of wise guys following the big star towards one Rickenbacher-bedecked manger or another is bound to be considered underrated, seeing as none of them, in point of fact, rate with anyone but self-righteous neo-retro zine mavens and their ilk - with each passing month, the name The Big Takeover drifts deeper into the sea of wishful thinking), and "Penpals" is about as charming as they come. Whether this was their intent is anybody's guess (except theirs, of course, but I can't afford to call direct to Nova Scotia on a shepherd's salary), but to me, this plays like a sly derivation on the classic "We're really huge in Belgium" claim made by pop prophets without profit in their own land since time immemorial (or at least 1966). Written as a series of letters in humorously but endearingly broken English, it's a reminder of how even modest achievements can ripple out to all corners of the world. Something that surely comforted Sloan as they recorded their doomed major-label debut even as it comforts me now, though I don't imagine I'll ever get a letter from someone reading "I am crazy love you." Well, I did get an e-mail like that once. But I still didn't buy their Sta-Rig-Id cream or download the horny young palentologist MPEGs like they wanted me to. Love has its limits.

More soon...

Friday, May 02, 2003


1. Kind of a "commercial" choice for my station, tending as I do towards the b-side, the bonus track, the poorly-recorded piece of soundcheck detritus - there's more than a little of the stuffy-nosed sound archivist in me, I admit, as this playlist (and all that precede and follow it) makes abundantly clear. In fact, I've come to realize that my chronic downloading activities, which focus almost exclusively on out-of-print albums, hyper-pricey imports and even-hyperer-pricey bootlegs, aren't so much a blow against the lumbering beast that is the recording industry as a rude gesture aimed at the used-record-store clerk I secretly long to be. The belittlement, the utter septic contempt that those people can evoke with a simple scowling perusal of your precious second-hand purchase and a dead-eyed stare shot your way as they sightlessly toss your money into the coolly-retro till purloined from the inventory of a defunct Mom-and-Pop grocery store (Pop probably died of a sudden coronary, or maybe he drove Mom out of her mind Gaslight-style and took up with the receptionist at his endrocrinologist's office; they tried to keep the business going but nobody felt comfortable shopping at a Pop-and-Mistress store) - God, the artistry of the petty-elitist retail slug, a skill my politeness-addled brain can only dream of approximating... Well, you gracefully cruel rat bastards, you just see if you get my hard-borrowed $22.50 for that first edition vinyl of Godz 2 you have tacked smugly to the wall. You just see...

Oh, fuck, what was I talking about? Oh, yes, the Dandies. "Every Day..." may be somewhat better known or at least more readily accessible than much of what I twist folks' unsuspecting lobes with - a high-profile track on an in-print major-label recording that hasn't even been mid-lined yet - but, damn, I adore it so. Brazenly imitative as always (the shadow of ZZ Top's "Legs" hangs all over it), and suggestive of various banal depravities as they tend to be (the yawning grind of the hipster too jaded to even pretend that what he's doing is exciting himself, much less offending anyone), but (and?) it has the kind of refrain - not soaring, quite, but elated enough to hover a couple of inches off the ground and drift for a few minutes - that induces the kind of mild, slightly dizzy euphoria that the finest pop does best. Never fails to make me smile. On the inside, of course. So as not to arouse suspicion.

2. The noisy end of the circa-'81 Flying Nun spectrum - these murky clamorers later perfected a more accomplished brand of skreek as Bailter Space - and indicative of my desire to spin a New Zealand band that isn't the Chills, the Clean, or one of Chris Knox's many outfits.

3. From the last-ever local gig in MoB's initial go-round, and notable mainly in that this is one of the few songs that never made it to any release, official or semi-. Sound's a bit murky, but think of it as a boon - now you can experience what it must have sounded like inside Roger Miller's head! Um, great, right?

4. Fanboy geekitude nonpareil: Not only do I lace my 56k stream-of-self-consciousness with numerous works from my most-enamored-of cultish faves, I also feel it necessary to plop in the occasional tribute to said faves. I've already favored my micro-mini-sampling of the listening public with "Shoot the Sexual Athlete," Belle & Sebastian's ode to the Go-Betweens (and homemade Pere Ubu button badges), and now this, one of a shockingly large number of musical paeans to the speed-and-lager-ravaged inscrutability of a certain Mark Edward Smith. This Suede tune actually turned up while searching for an appropriate selection by Elastica (another favored band of brazen pilferers and bouncy hepster charlatans - "the connection is made," indeed; there's a foolish consistency running through this entire enterprise o'mine, for feck's sake), and I'm glad I dredged it up. Sure, this pisstake/homage (dating from when 'stica's Justine Frischmann was both in and, ahem, with the band) isn't the most representative swatch of Suede out there, but, once past the somewhat silly lyrics ("The boy Smith's called a super Scotch homo/ Bald, insane, Satanical romo" - okay, I changed my mind, scratch "somewhat"), the fuzzy, buzzy, almost Mary Chain-esque bluntness of this song - never truly grubby, mind you, that would compromise Brett Anderson's fabulous fringe cut, but the similacrum sings the same - handily reminds one of how surprisingly keen even their toss-offs (now, now) could be. Suede's slipped a bit in recent years, granted, but back when the nineties Britpop Marathon was being run, they consistently lapped the field while, after strong early starts, Blur lost ground nervously trying on everyone else's jerseys while still in motion and Oasis wound up disqualified for nutting each other and calling the timekeeper a "coont." The little fey games that Suede played at the outset were just a ruse, and an extremely clever one in pop terms - coy homocentricism was such a given by the mid-nineties that no one really cared and were even slightly embarrassed by the boy-smooching cover art and the bum-waggling stage act, so the harsh spotlight of media attention were busy singeing second-hand pudding-bowls and monobrows elsewhere while Suede was left to craft their grandly foppy bits of glamorama fa fa fa in relative peace. If you don't believe me, check out Coming Up, a brilliant album recorded after original guitarist/co-songwriter Bernard Butler split and not even the howling fan-tawds thought they had it in 'em, or better, grab 'hold of Sci-Fi Melodies, one of the very few consistently strong two-disc sets of the era - and it's nothing but b-sides. Bless their tarnished gold-plated hearts.

To be continued...

Thursday, May 01, 2003


1. Dandy Warhols - "Every Day Should Be a Holiday"
2. The Gordons - "Coalminer's Song"
3. Mission of Burma - "See My Friends (Bradford Hotel, Boston 3/12/83)"
4. Suede - "Implement Yeah!"
5. Sloan - "Penpals"
6. The Cramps - "Faster Pussycat"
7. Leonard Cohen - "Don't Go Home With Your Hard-On"
8. Throbbing Gristle - "Walkabout"
9. Tall Dwarfs - "We Are The Chosen Few"
10. Black Randy And The Metrosquad - "Marlon Brando"
11. DNA -"32123 (Live at CBGB's, 6/25/82)"
12. Velvet Underground - "Hey Mr. Rain (Version One)"
13. Love - "Good Times"
14. Roddy Frame - "Big Ben"
15. Autechre - ""
16. The Germs - "We Must Bleed"
17. The Smiths - "Back To The Old House (Peel Session)"

Explanations to come, maybe. And not a fucking word about that last one, 'kay?