Friday, August 28, 2009
To support the publication of his new novel Andromeda Klein, which came out this week, musician and author Frank Portman, aka Dr. Frank, wrote a theme song for his oddly-named teenage occultist heroine and recorded it with his band, the Mr. T Experience. The song is available for download on Portman's web site. A second song based on the book, "Bethlehem," will be released on September 15th, at which point both tunes will become available for purchase on vinyl (including a limited edition on red vinyl, signed by Dr. Frank and Lane Smith, who created the cover art) and as downloads. The listing on Interpunk says the two songs "take his trademark quirky hook-laden punkish guitar-pop bubble-glam sound to new heights."
Wednesday, August 26, 2009
Thursday, August 20, 2009
Tea In The Sahara, from Synchronicity, released by The Police in 1983, is based on a story-within-the-story from Paul Bowles's 1949 novel The Sheltering Sky. Traveling in North Africa, one of the novel's main characters is told a story about three sisters named Outka, Mimouna, and Aïcha. They dance in cafés to earn money so that they can realize their eccentric dream of drinking tea in the Sahara. One day a handsome visitor tells them of the desert in the south, where he lives. They dance for him and he gives each of them a piece of silver, then departs the next day. The sisters grow increasingly unhappy, finally deciding that if they don't pursue their dream now, they never will. They pool their money, including the three silver pieces, to buy a teapot, a tray, and three glasses. They head south to find the desert the handsome stranger described, eventually joining a caravan into the Sahara. When they reach the great dunes of sand, they leave the caravan looking for the dune that is high enough to allow them to see all of the Sahara as they sip their tea. They finally find a suitable dune around midday, set out their tea things, then lie down to rest. Many days later, another caravan finds the bodies of the three sisters where they lay. "And all three glasses," the narrator of the story says, "were full of sand. That was how they had their tea in the Sahara." The lyrics faithfully describe this scenario, and include the phrase Beneath the sheltering sky. (The album title Synchronicity contains a literary reference: It alludes to a theory of psychiatrist Carl Jung's, which Sting found in a book called The Roots of Coincidence, by Arthur Koestler. An earlier Police album was named after another book by Koestler, The Ghost in the Machine.)
Monday, August 17, 2009
Thursday, August 13, 2009
Vanessa Daou's 1994 debut album Zipless consists entirely of musical interpretations of the poetry of feminist writer Erica Jong, as found in her 1991 collection Becoming Light: Poems New and Selected. In putting together this collaboration, Daou had a bit of an inside track: she is married to Jong's nephew, Peter Daou. According to the description of the album on Daou's website, "Jong's emotionally complex and sexually-charged narratives radiated against the sumptuous backdrop of Peter’s masterful arrangements and Vanessa’s engrossing vocal caresses." Jong herself provided a vocal for the album, reciting her own poem on the track Smoke. The album's title alludes to a two-word phrase coined by Jong in her 1973 novel Fear of Flying, referring to a sexual encounter between two strangers, without emotional commitment or involvement. One of the words is "zipless." We're far too delicate to include the other word here.
Tuesday, August 11, 2009
Wednesday, August 5, 2009
Gold Rush Brides, from 10,000 Maniacs 1992 album Our Time in Eden, is drawn from Lillian Schlissel's 1982 book Women's Diaries of the Westward Journey. The book tells the story of the great westward expansion that occurred in the mid-1800s from the point of view of the women who took part in it, drawing heavily from diaries, letters, and other primary sources. In the song, the narrator is thinking about these women as she travels the same route: Who were the homestead wives? Who were the gold rush brides? Does anybody know? Do their works survive their yellow fever lives in the pages they wrote? The lyrics make plain the hardships they endured: In letters mailed back home her Eastern sisters they would moan as they would read accounts of madness, childbirth, loneliness and grief. When the band appeared on MTV Unplugged, Natalie Merchant read a passage from the book aloud as an introduction to their live performance of Gold Rush Brides.