If any of you bastards are into Audible books, this one is a must. I bought it a couple of years ago, making my second pass now. Riveting.
David Sedaris tells all in a book that is, literally, a lifetime in the making.
For forty years, David Sedaris has kept a diary in which he records everything that captures his attention-overheard comments, salacious gossip, soap opera plot twists, secrets confided by total strangers. These observations are the source code for his finest work, and through them he has honed his cunning, surprising sentences.
Now, Sedaris shares his private writings with the world. Theft by Finding, the first of two volumes, is the story of how a drug-abusing dropout with a weakness for the International House of Pancakes and a chronic inability to hold down a real job became one of the funniest people on the planet.
Written with a sharp eye and ear for the bizarre, the beautiful, and the uncomfortable, and with a generosity of spirit that even a misanthropic sense of humor can’t fully disguise, Theft By Finding proves that Sedaris is one of our great modern observers. It’s a potent reminder that when you’re as perceptive and curious as Sedaris, there’s no such thing as a boring day.
Here’s a great 32-year-old article from SPIN’s archives, from around the time that I was getting into them. (Yes, I was late to the party and had to work my way back through the Twin/Tone albums.) The band had just parted ways with manager Pete Jesperson, fired lead guitarist Bob Stinson, and released one of their best albums, Pleased To Meet Me. Recorded right here in Memphis!
“When we started,” [Westerberg] says, pausing to sip from a midmorning Schmidt, “we definitely had a fear of success. We had a fear of everything. We were all very paranoid, and I think that goes hand in hand with the excessive drinking thing. We’d get drunk because we were basically scared shitless, and that snowballed into image. Now we’re a little more assured of what we’re doing. We’re not positive which way we’re going, but we think we know what mistakes lie ahead, and we’re trying to sidestep ‘em.”
Check out “Twink” miming with The Pretty Things for a bewildered French TV audience. Ever heard of Twink? I hadn’t, so I poked around on Google. Nicknamed after a British hair product, Twink was a mime, drummer, close friend of Syd Barrett, and general scenester of the London psychedelic underground. He played drums with an early version of T. Rex, with Syd Barret occasionally, on one Pretty Things album, and with the Pink Fairies. In the early 70’s, he was in Hawkwind with Lemmy. His band The Rings were on the ground floor of the London punk scene in ’77. Some refer to their lone single, “I Wanna be Free” as England’s first punk record. It’s not very good compared to what was about to come from the Damned, Sex Pistols, Buzzcocks, Clash, and Jam.
What led me to this video was my fondness for The Pretty Things, a very good British r&b band who never made any headway in the U.S. Their guitarist, Dick Taylor, had been in an early version of the Stones. Like the Stones, their forays into psychedelia were not always memorable, as you can hear above. You can hear them at their best here and here. Their raucous version of Roadrunner is my favorite cover of that song.
Dimitri Shostakovich wrote this (2nd movement, Symphony #10) as a musical portrait of Stalin, who had harrassed him directly and indirectly throughout his career. This is pure malevolence, published after Stalin was safely dead. While Uncle Joe was alive, DS was mostly confined to putting out government approved, “socalist realist” garbage, while keeping much of his “real” work private. Occasionally he could put one over on the Soviets and follow the letter of their requirements while mocking them. One cool thing is that in the finale of this same symphony, he has a theme based on his initials, DSCH, vie for dominance against the Stalin theme from this movement. DSCH wins. Artistic revenge at its finest. “He who laughs last, laughs longest.”
The conductor seems a little too into his hair, and I’m not sure why he appears to be grinning during this grim business. But you’ve gotta give him credit, his musicians are playing the hell out of this. He made his reputation whipping these young Venezuelans into a respectable unit. He’s since gone on to greener pastures in LA.
David Nutt, psychiatrist and director of the neuropsychopharmacology unit at Imperial College London, has been working on a safe alternative to booze since he discovered an alcohol antidote as a PhD student in 1983. From an article in The Guardian, here’s the cool science-nerd part …
What Nutt now knows is that there are 15 different Gaba receptor subtypes in multiple brain regions, “and alcohol is very promiscuous. It will bind to them all.” Without giving away his trade secrets, he says he has found which Gaba and other receptors can be stimulated to induce tipsiness without adverse effects. “We know where in the brain alcohol has its ‘good’ effects and ‘bad’ effects, and what particular receptors mediate that – Gaba, glutamate and other ones, such as serotonin and dopamine. The effects of alcohol are complicated but … you can target the parts of the brain you want to target.”
Handily, you can modify the way in which a molecule binds to a receptor to produce different effects. You can design a peak effect into it, so no matter how much Alcarelle you consume, you won’t get hammered. This is well-established science; in fact Nutt says a number of medicines, such as the smoking cessation drug varenicline (marketed as Champix), use a similar shut-off effect. You can create other effects, too, while still avoiding inebriation, so you could choose between a party drink or a business-lunch beverage.
Ultimately, the aim isn’t for Alcarelle to become a drinks company, but to supply companies in the drinks industry with the active ingredient, so that they can make and market their own products. You would expect that the alcohol industry would view Alcarelle as its nemesis, but Orren says that industry players “are approaching us as potential investing collaborators”. This doesn’t surprise Jonny Forsyth, a global drinks analyst at Mintel. “The industry is increasingly investing in alcohol alternatives,” he says. “We have seen a lot of investment in cannabis … They’re looking at nonalcoholic gins and soft drinks because they know people are drinking less [alcohol], and this is a trend that is going to carry on. If the science is right, and if it’s easy to mask the taste, I think it’s got a great chance.”
In his second punk documentary, filmmaker Danny “Looking for Johnny” Garcia takes a deep dive into the life and legacy of the Dead Boys front man. Included in STIV is some rare footage and lore about Stiv’s surprising career before and after the Dead Boys, as well as the hilarious stories and hijinks one associates with the punk legend who died at age 40 in 1990.
The house in the photograph belonged to a man named Tom “T. C.” Boring, a dentist born and raised in Greenwood, whom Eggleston has described as the best friend he ever had in the world. He was the scion of a well-respected Delta family, a sharp and promising Southern archetype who glided his way through the University of Mississippi, Loyola University, and the Navy before coming home to Greenwood and gradually, ungracefully losing his mind.
Don’t Tell a Soul marked the debut of Bob “Slim” Dunlap, who replaced founding guitarist Bob Stinson. The album was recorded at Cherokee Studios in Los Angeles and produced by Matt Wallace and the band. It was mixed by Chris Lord-Alge, who decided to give the record “a three-dimensional, radio-ready sound”. However, singer and guitarist Paul Westerberg was not satisfied with the new direction, commenting: “I thought the little things I’d cut in my basement were closer to what I wanted.”
To celebrate, let’s all take a moment and watch one of my favorite rock ‘n’ roll moments.
Before the show, they were told they needed to change the line, “We’re feeling good from the pills we took.” Well, fittingly, Westerberg did no such thing, and the censors were obviously ready for it, as the tape goes silent during that section of the song. What the censors at ABC didn’t anticipate was this: Near the conclusion of “Talent Show” the lyrics address the time when the band hits the stage and there’s no retreating: “It’s too late to turn back, here we go” is repeated twice on the album version, but here Westerberg has changed the line to “It’s too late to take pills, here we go”—ha! The censors missed it and they’ve pissed everyone off again! To add insult, the line is sung three times.
Google Books has archived every issue of SPIN, which is what my original post was going to be about. Then I started digging around in an old issue from the summer after I graduated college (August, 1991), and rediscovered an excellent Paul Westerberg interview. Apparently, rock has always been on the verge of imminent collapse, to quote the man himself. We bastards were just the other day discussing rock’s back seat in pop culture, and this edition of SPIN is 27 years old! Anyhoo, I was amused by this …
SPIN: Is rock dead?
Westerberg: Well, is jazz dead? That’s the way I look at it. Rock ‘n’ roll is underground once again, but it won’t die, just like jazz won’t. It’s not the popular music of the day, but it’s not dead.
A little later, the interviewer asks if Elvis was king, which leads to this exchange …
SPIN: What about somebody like Alex Chilton? You made him a rock hero in your song.
Westerberg: No. I don’t know what Alex represents. Now I listen to his new Rhino compilation, and it’s like, I can’t make up my mind whether Alex is some brilliant chameleon or just a guy who fucking lost it real quick. I almost regret writing that song. It’s sad, because kids will come and ask me about Alex and you’ll see this look in their eyes, and they think he’s some guy in leather pants that jumps from amplifiers or something. It’s like, if they only knew.