Saturday, May 5th, 2007
Storefront Hitchcock is a beatiful concert film. It is from right around the time of Moss Elixir/Mossy Liquor; a lot of songs from that album are featured. Deni Bonet is playing on a couple of songs and boy is she a fine musician. Tonight I am watching it and I wanted to transcribe some of Hitchcock's patter, which I found pretty fun and engaging, and vaguely apropos to this evening's Mineshaft discussion. He has just finished "Feels Like 1974" and introduced Bonet:
If you stand up properly, it's possible to make yourself -- with this technique, it's called "Alexander Technique", for actors, and people who have, ah, incredibly bad posture but enough money to try and get over it. Ah, you can actually make yourself grow two or three inches by doing it correctly. They align you as if, as if your spine was an, an endless plate of crockery. And kind of line it up properly so it won't tip. Most of our spines zig-zag heinously, and you can go up for miles.
They're planning... as you know, people get taller -- the average human height increases by one and a half inches every hundred years. Most of our an-- Julius Cæsar would have only come up to your pelvis. You could have broiled him, you know. He would have been no trouble -- those legions -- they were just midgets.
I went to an astrologer's house in um, wherever that place is with the rose-colored rocks, ah, Arizona... built for astrolog, sorry astronomers in the fifth century BC, and all the doors were really tiny, they were like the size of cucumber frames. So I pictured all these cucumbers, going into the astronomers' house and like spiraling up the stairs. And um, well what they're planning to do is make people -- not only because people are eating more and more pure beef, which as you know is probably the best possible foodstuff that the world can produce. One of the reasons we were created, that ah Siemens and Glaxo and Virgin and Disney got together and said "Let there be humanity" was, so that we could eat beef... and I'm very proud of our wonderful country that they haven't forgotten that...
Thank you. And ah, let's just hope the conservatives get in again, shall we... And ah, if you're watching this in the future, I come from a time when there was a two-party system, but things have veered toward an inevitable monopoly -- people have complained about the eastern bloc being a monopoly for years. This is exactly what's happened in the west, there's just -- when the final Big Fish fellates the last Medium-sized Fish and, and absorbs it, thoomp like that, there will just be one Big Fish with a distended stomach... Anyway, back to the beef, let's not forget it, ah people are supposed to just be getting bigger and bigger, and as you know, Neil Armstrong was seven foot seven; all those -- you've already been to the Smithsonian, you've seen those capsules, the Mercury Capsule and the Gemini Capsule, they're very tiny, they actually look like the Stonehenge in the Spinal Tap thing, where it comes down on a spider's web. This is a posthumous public relations thing by NASA; in fact these men were giants, cause they were put into a, into a (also actually in Arizona) government site, and fed radioactive carbonated beef for two years until they became very tall. Their capsules were huge, and ah, anyway they're planning for the rest of us to follow suit, and I got so angry I wrote this song:
Hitchcock and Bonet play Filthy Bird.
Yeah, um this is, this is another one. Thing is, people, I don't know why people ever actually introduce songs, because, the song itself is an introduction to itself. It's like if you meet somebody named Martha, they say, "This is Martha"; I mean, you know, that person happens to be known as Martha, just as I might be called Bloomingdale's, or, or you know, Deni might be called Statenisland. But that's really only the beginning of the story. There's a whole mass of molecules, and complexes, and, things bound together by terrifying physical improbabilities, and the truth is, she could fly apart at any moment. Like some terrible pent-up lock that's waiting to snap and spatter her psyche across the universe. God knows... It is disgusting Deni, it's life, and if it weren't for our ribcages, it would just be spleens à-go-go. I mean, you know people are just held in by all this, and then they're called almost insultingly by a single name. And the same with a song, I could say what a song's called, which isn't going to be much of a clue, unless you've heard it before, or I can explain what it's about, and I'm gonna be lying. So in the end it's very much, there's ah not much point in it.
That's interesting, there's some people polishing a gun carriage over there. One of those big brass eighteenth-century things, for storing in time capsules. There's a very thin line between torture and cosmetics. I wonder, now's our chance to cross it. Okay, take a deep breath and yip-a-dang.
Hitchcock and Bonet play Let's Go Thundering.
More transcription another time.
More patter!Hitchcock has just finished playing You and Oblivion.
I don't come from anywhere particularly, but inasmuch as I come from anywhere, I come from this diamond-shaped island at the bottom of England, it slots into the bottom as if Great Britain was laying an egg, and it's this diamond-shaped egg, which is the Isle of Wight. And ah, there's some very beautiful bits of cliff and beach there. But it's very soft, the bottom of the island is disappearing at the rate of about ah, ten feet a year. Stuff just goes, and it doesn't seem to come back. And ah, so I worked out that, that the cliffs where I pace, in another hundred years' time will disappear completely, and that my ghost will be fifty feet above the beach. There must be other ghosts out to sea, as the ghosts get further out to sea their costumes get older, so you've got you know, ghosts from the fifties about twenty feet out, and ghosts from World War II ghosts just beyond that, and you've got Great War ghosts with their goggles, and Edwardian ghosts with their mantles and Victorian ghosts with their cravats and canes, ah Jacobean ghosts with their... legs. And it just goes back on, whatever they had, those things to stop 'em smelling too bad. And about a mile out, there must be Cro-Magnon ghosts, clubbing each other to death and grinning. Now I guess there's going to be a few more of those inland as well. Anyway, this is a song from my ghost to those who walk underneath it.
I mean which, which may well be computers actually. If ah, if any of you computers are watching this, in fifty years' time, we're the people that put you here. We're God. We're terribly sorry -- you know, God never apologized to us. He made us bow down and fucking worship him for thousands of centuries. Every time he slapped our face we had to go "Oh, great is thy mercy, Lord! Have another sacrifice, I've chopped off this arm, will a leg do. Elmer, get off the leg!" Ah, so anyway, we apologize, we're not responsible, we created you, we're extinct.
Hitchcock plays Airscape,
Sunday, May 20th, 2007
The most laid-back of the songs on Moss Elixir is "Alright Yeah". It is a beautiful way to finish the record -- he's sorry to be going but he's sure we'll meet up again -- the lines "I've gotta split/ It's a quaint old-fashioned way/ to say good-bye.../ good-bye..." reliably crack me up, especially because of the beauty of the chord change at the end there, from Bsus4 to E (chords transcribed here). Here is how Mr. Hitchcock introduces the song in Storefront Hitchcock (he has just finished playing "Freeze", from Queen Elvis):
I'll remove the third cone, and there's Captain Keegan and the tomato.
Totally exterior [not sure this is transcribed correctly], and why not?
Um, this is a really comfortable song. It's, it's, it's a musical equivalent of a sofa or a contour-fitted chair. It's unable to cause you any pain whatsoever. I mean, I mean unless actually hearing the harmonics of this kind of thing is painful, but it's designed not to upset you in the least, it's, it's not even bland. You know, you couldn't say "this is annoyingly comfortable." It's like, I was in a lobby once in Minneapolis, and -- the fact is, there was a whole hotel on top of it as well -- and I was in the lobby, and it was icy outside -- there were people with icepicks just hauling themselves along the surface, like they do when, you know, when they turn the screen horizontal. And they were inching their way along Nicollet Mall, and there was a howling blizzard, and inside it was just, there was this Muzak playing in the lobby, and I had a hangover. And I was carrying a meat cleaver, and I went up to the desk, and I said, um, "Could you turn the Muzak down please", and they said "I'm sorry sir, we can't", and... I took my cleaver out... and I said "Why not?" And they said, "because it's pleasing."
Okay... if you start, then I'll follow you.
After Hitchcock and Keegan play "Alright Yeah" -- the performance is if anything even better than on Moss Elixir -- come the credits, along a split-screen shot of Robyn playing "I Don't Remember Guilford".
You know when you think you're right about things, that can make you very -- bitter. And if the rest of the world hasn't happened to go along with your...way of seeing things... and if the rest of the world includes someone you've been close to, then you feel worse.
I don't understand the song but it is a lovely impressionistic piece.
Thursday, July 31st, 2008
Over at the Fegmaniax-l, they've been discussing the evolution of Robyn Hitchcock's stage patter. I thought I'd try transcribing some song intros from a couple of weeks ago; these are taken from the July 12th show at The Blend in Ridgewood, and the July 15th show at The Turning Point in Piermont. I can't swear to the accuracy of the transcriptions but they are pretty close. Note they're not nearly as polished as the song intros I transcribed from Storefront Hitchcock; this makes me think he's doing them pretty much off the cuff, whereas for the movie he probably rehearsed a bit.
"I'm Only You", Blend
Well, if you really love somebody, my grandmother used say, you turn into them. ...Nobody turned into my grandmother. So this is dedicated to my grandmother:
"I'm Only You", Turning Pt.
If you really admire somebody, one thing you can do is... try to turn into them. Now this hasn't paid off with things like, the Christian church; but, if the object of your devotions is, nailed, to a piece of wood and... bleeding to death horribly, how much do you wanta turn into them? This is an issue that is raised by the whole concept of the imitation of Christ; um, I'm not gonna deal with that at all. This song is... much much lighter than that. It is, a soufflé, that wafts over the field of human agony rather like a U.F.O.... flits across Arizona and decides to settle in New Mexico.
"Victorian Squid", Blend
It's possible that the Victorians were frightened by sex. ...It's also possible that there's a 7-11 on Jupiter. It's possible that Bush and Cheney will suddenly cause the constitution to be mutated so Bush can seek a third term, and, ah, and mandatorily get it. Some possibilities are better than others. Or... more possible. Anyway, not many Victorians are left, apart from everything they wrote, and they wrote a lot, mostly because they, they wrote in longhand and there was no e-mail. So if they wanted to journal or blog they had to write it down by hand in, you know, with proper ink and stuff like that. ...But biologically, they are much the same as we were, many of us indeed have Victorian a-ancestors, or people who came from that period. And if push came to shove and we had to mate with, those of us who choose to mate or are physically capable of mating, with, ah, other humans, if we had to mate with Victorians, we probably could, and it's quite possible we could have offspring, which would be interesting, especially if they were our great-grandparents who we were mating with; ...but you know, if there's a chronal fissure in the fabric of the cosmos, beggars cannot be choosers, you just have to get on with it, and screw your great-grandparents. Whole empires have been founded on worse. ...And, this song is not really about that. It's an out world. Okay!
"Victorian Squid", Turning Pt.
A lot of people might like to think that the Victorians were, sexually repressed, and... all they could do was have starched colons, and build empires, if they were British, and over here, think that they were free of Britain, and, smoke the same cigars. All forged with iron, and no climaxes... And, y'know, they're probably right, cause, what do we know, we're, I mean, they're all gone; there are very few Victorians in our lives on a day-to-day basis. You might read the works of Trollope, or ah Charles Dickens, but increasingly you won't understand what they're saying, because the language has mutated. So... but, and which is a drag, because they were artists, they were trying to leave a legacy; well they were initially trying to make a living. In fact, before that, they were trying to break rocks of solid stone, boy salt,... basalt? Basil -- solid rocks of basil, that's right. They were trying to cleave these rocks, solid rocks of gravel, they were making a solid road 16 miles long, they were in Sing Sing and Riker's Island, that's where Jane Austen met George Eliot, they were breaking rocks down there. Their asses were bad, and at night they'd go out, fornicating in the baths, with a, blimp... The blimp was above the bath. Kind of um, you know, monitoring them, it was a primitive form of bodyguard; you couldn't afford huge people with sunglasses and holsters and things in those days, so you took, if you were a hard-ass villain breaking rocks of solid gravel out in the penitentiary, then the time came and the warden said "Hey buddy, don't you be no square, go in to Hoboken for the evening and boogie," they would then, the warden would tether you to a blimp, and, um, the blimp would be... It was kind of nice, really nice twine would come down through the chimney of the hostelry you'd be in, boogie, but don't forget, in those days there was no e-mail, but you could smoke. People really knew how to rip it up. And so there's, there's all these convicts would be in there, with these nice chimneys, ventilating the smoke, and also there were a few little pieces of, of silk and muslin and taffeta coming off their ankles, going up to the waiting attendant blimps above them, while they boogied. And then, every so, when it was time to go, their asses would be hauled up by the silk and twine through the chimneys, and then they'd be brought dangling headfirst to the penitentiaries. But by Friday, next Friday, they were ready to give it another go again, cause they'd had a rough week, and they thought anything was better than just spending the night in, you know, watching, um, watching DVD's. Cause there was no Netflix in those days... Hard to believe. So anyway: the Victorians were a rough bunch, everywhere, it's true. So this song is just a kind of mythological... you know, ah, it's my fantasy of what Victorian life was like. I know that the reality is what I've described. So, you know... bear with me, I know it's a feeble picture. But, who wants a strong picture? You know, a strong picture, you'd be driving down the road in your, in your pickup, um... you know, might even lose a wheel, it wouldn't matter, you'd be confident: and then suddenly, there's a strong picture, and you smash into it. Because strong pictures are always left in the road; doesn't matter, could be by Braque, by Picasso, or, or, an older one by... Van Eyck or something, you know, and um, you just smash right into them, your truck is written off, totalled, So remember, weak picures have their place. And if you're going to see the Mona Lisa, that little guy comes busting through the screen, and smashes up against the glass, you know, everything's drenched with blood, in the Louvre, you can't really see the Mona Lisa because of all the dried blood in front of her. Which pisses her off, she's called the Angry Mona Lisa. She's encased, she's just behind this wall of dried blood, I think it's a paradigm of what happened to Christianity; but they were asking for it! ...You know if they'd had a penguin, and a nice un-crucified penguin on a green cone, how much more peaceful would life have been? ...And you know, is that any more meaningless than some poor guy nailed to a tree and bleeding to death, I'd rather see a penguin on a green cone. Okay! here we go.
Tuesday, August 26th, 2008
Two things I like very much from the re-issue of Fegmania!: the final track "Lady Obvious," which appears never to have been released before (and which I spent a few minutes wishing could be called "Lady Octopus"); and the live version of "Heaven." I transcribed the lyrics to the former, and the intro to latter. If anybody knows the provenance of this recording of "Heaven," please let me know. (According to Miles Goosens, it is likely from the 1992 Robyn Hitchcock and the Egyptians tour.)
I haunted you once
You haunt me still
On a hill, I sighed, I cried...
You wanted me once
I want you still
I'm so ill, I wail, I flail...
Come down, Lady Obvious, come down
Come down, Lady Obvious, come down
I touched you once
You touch me now
And how, I feel, you there...
You loved me once
You love me now
And how, I care....
Come down, Lady Obvious, come down
Come down, Lady Obvious, come down
You loved me once
I turned away
But love and pity never mix
I'll see you when you're 36
Come down, Lady Obvious, come down
Come down, Lady Obvious, come down
Patter before "Heaven"
This here: this is a floating, a floating cathedral prayer song, used to be sung by the old prospectors when they were waiting for the cathedral to arrive. Back in the 20's, when the Bechtel corporation used to take cheap labor out into the desert to complete its massive projects, big dams and so forth. The men weren't paid very much, and they couldn't get any liquor, so they used to sit outside in groups, in circles, and they'd wait for the cathedral to come by. Big floating, transparent glass cathedral, lit by columns of light from underneath. When it came by, they'd all stiffen and howl. You've got heaven...
Wednesday, February 25th, 2009
Driving home from work, I was listening to Robyn Hitchcock's April 3 1999 show at the Largo (in LA? I think so) and some of his patter caught my attention. And I thought hey, it's been a little while since I posted a transcription of Hitchcock's stage patter, why not give it a whirl? So here you go. Note: I don't think Robyn is really at the top of his game in this concert -- he sounds tired and probably drunk, and the music and patter both have a lot of rough edges -- I think he is acknowledging this when he says, after "Viva Sea-Tac", "Man, I am so rocking. Not even." He manages to come up with some interesting ideas amid the incoherence though. Patter below the fold.
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