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Cash from kudos - click opera
February 2010
 
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Sun, Feb. 15th, 2009 04:39 am
Cash from kudos

Quite a few people asked me this week whether I'd made a trip to London to see the Magazine reunion. The answer is no. I have nothing against Devoto doing it -- I'm glad he has -- and if I'd been in the UK I might have attended. But these things are always something of a let-down. Technically I've "seen" the Sex Pistols and the Velvet Underground live, but I haven't really seen those legendary bands; what I saw were 1990s reunion tours put together to squeeze cash from kudos.



In Magazine's case I did see them at their peak. I saw them at Aberdeen University Student Union in 1979, touring their Secondhand Daylight album, and even reviewed the show for Gaudie, the student paper, describing Devoto as a "deer trapped in headlights". Then I saw them playing at a club in Edinburgh called The Moon (with Josef K supporting) during their Correct Use of Soap period. I remember being particularly impressed, that night, by the way the mid-section of I'm A Party broke off into a completely different time signature. It was dizzying. And Devoto was still a deer in headlights.

Much later I saw Luxuria at the Forum, the legendary 1988 gig where Morrissey came out and read some Proust. When Devoto and Noko (who's playing guitar in the 2009 shows -- spookily note-perfect reproductions of the late John McGeogh's licks) were featured on Snub TV in 1990 they asked specifically that I should interview them, which I did. Later, I was lucky enough to go for dinner several times with Devoto. Sitting across the table from me he was... a deer in headlights. I remember quizzing him about the line about drugging and fucking someone on the permafrost (he said it was a love song), about why the first line of Philadelphia doesn't turn into a short story ("I write songs differently than you do, Nick"), and I remember how Devoto quoted Eliot's Prufrock as we left the restaurant.



I wouldn't have missed dinner with Devoto for the world, but I missed the "cash from kudos" reunion tour with equanimity. Because it's part of the kind of Retro Necro culture I abhor (as I said in my tribute song, "I wouldn't want to put you in any Rock'n'Roll Hall of Fame -- I assume you view such things with uproarious disdain"). Because I saw them when they were young. Because I saw them while McGeogh was still alive. And because cash from kudos is an exchange subject -- like the human body -- to the second law of thermodynamics; entropy. Energy has a tendency to diminish over time. Even the most brilliant brilliance sags. In the entertainment world's own version of the laws of physics, kudos can be converted to cash, but afterwards kudos is diminished. I'm interested to watch the YouTube videos that have appeared over the last few days of Magazine's latest shows, of course I am. But I also note that, whereas Magazine videos used to be few but intense (like the Cut-Out Shapes video above), now they're plentiful and... less intense. Some of the kudos has become cash. Not as much cash as the most important man alive deserves, but cash anyway.



I measure the important man's importance today by the searing traces he's left in me. The teenaged me could never have dreamed that an article in The Financial Times on Devoto's re-emergence would mention me, but I'm delighted that his impact on me has become part of the story of his impact on everyone. At my 1979 concert last night Devoto was invisibly there as I sang a song I wrote at 19 which begins: "Time crawls slowly round the room when you, you make your entrance / Eyes like headlights switch on you then I, I seek my vengeance". It was pure pastiche Devoto, one part The Light Pours Out Of Me, one part Give Me Everything. In fact my entire first album (The Happy Family album) is Devoto pastiche: the title track interjects evocative micro-narratives just as Magazine's Come Alive does ("At Leonardo Da Vinci Intercontinental Airport a Swiss pathologist missed his connecting flight").

And I'm still doing it today. Here's an exclusive: the first draft of the song Ichabod Crane from the Joemus album. It's called The Accident, and it's one part Because You're Frightened, one part Spiral Scratch:



The Accident

Drudgery and buggery and someone else's lover
Sent me on a journey with your idiot brother
Well he's shallow and he's callous and I'm green about the gills
With a book of filthy pictures and a bunch of daffodils

Well I get a little nervous at the summit of the mountain
You are nowhere to be seen and there are thunderstorms gathering
I try to work out just exactly where you put the synth
But your brother's got no manners and the cliff's a labyrinth

Then it happened
The argument
That's when we had
The accident

Like a spiral in a record I am spinning round and round
With a stupid needle in me, screaming stupid sounds
And my stupid friends are far away, smoking cigarettes
And indulging in occasionally gratifying sex

Then it happened
The argument
That's when we had
The accident

To escape your fucking mother and her yellow telephone
This endless fucking mountain was the only place to go
But the last thing I expected was that she'd be here to get me
With a loaded gun, a croissant and a book by Dostoyevsky

Then it happened
The argument
That's when we had
The accident

Thank you, Mr Devoto, deer in headlights, most important man alive. Kudos to you, and may the cash keep flowing.

53CommentReplyShare


imomus
imomus
imomus
Sun, Feb. 15th, 2009 05:02 am (UTC)

It rhymes if you're a Zen master.


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bibble
bibble
S0n of N00n
Sun, Feb. 15th, 2009 07:09 am (UTC)

the video is so good


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count_vronsky
count_vronsky
Sun, Feb. 15th, 2009 07:22 am (UTC)

Yeah seconding kuma, that video is amazing. Such a great song. Doesn't get much better than that.

Also, something magical happens when you play this overtop of the teenage momus tapes.


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(Anonymous)
Sun, Feb. 15th, 2009 07:22 am (UTC)

I don't want this spelling drill!!!!
なんとかしてよ。


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count_vronsky
count_vronsky
Sun, Feb. 15th, 2009 08:10 am (UTC)

Yeah, but even you have to admit that video is pretty special, right?



Edited at 2009-02-15 09:40 pm (UTC)


ReplyThread Parent

(Anonymous)
Sun, Feb. 15th, 2009 07:51 am (UTC)

FattyでEDでETで、意地悪なのに、るいすのこと好きって、私ってばっかみたい。500万ドルよりるいすがいいなんて、頭おかしいよね。
ルイスと一緒におしゃべりしていて、頭がいかれてしまった。
ちょっと。どうしてくれるのさ!


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(Anonymous)
Sun, Feb. 15th, 2009 07:52 am (UTC)

Lewis is not here. He's gone.


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(Anonymous)
Sun, Feb. 15th, 2009 07:54 am (UTC)

そうだ。るいす、「どさくさに紛れて」、宇宙ステーションでcreativityのexperimentをするとかいうことで、宇宙ステーションに滞在するチャンス、あるかもしれないから、ダイエットとトレーニングはしておいたほうがいいと思うな。それにEDのこと、みんなに話したら、宇宙でEDを治療するという実験のため、宇宙ステーションにいけるかもしれないよ~


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(Anonymous)
Sun, Feb. 15th, 2009 07:55 am (UTC)

Sorry being too straight foward.


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(Anonymous)
Sun, Feb. 15th, 2009 07:56 am (UTC)

失礼なこと言って、ごめんね、るいす。


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(Anonymous)
Sun, Feb. 15th, 2009 07:57 am (UTC)

じゃあね。


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(Anonymous)
Sun, Feb. 15th, 2009 09:42 am (UTC)

Look, this is simple. Venerable bands used to get royalties from their back catalogue. They didn't have to haul their tired asses from venue to venue anymore. It's not a moral issue. The economics have changed, that's all.


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charleston
charleston
Bonham C
Sun, Feb. 15th, 2009 11:03 am (UTC)

But these things are always something of a let-down.

Yeah, this was my pretty much attitude - but I went anyway, and, god - just one of the best gigs I've ever been to. I dunno how they managed to pull off, but it was pretty magical.


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imomus
imomus
imomus
Sun, Feb. 15th, 2009 01:28 pm (UTC)

I think it could be one of the best gigs you've ever been to and still be not as good as a Magazine gig in 1979, so it would have to represent "the second law of thermodynamics" for someone who'd seen them then.

Just to give a tiny example, Devoto is seen "conducting" Noko through the guitar riffs in many of the YouTube videos of the new shows. When he's not singing, he's doing this "conducting" gesture. Now, 1979 Devoto would not have done that. He projected an aura of cold, powerful detachment, something glacial, somewhat related to Bowie's Thin White Duke character. He turned his back on the audience, climbed a specially-constructed microphone stand, stared like a Gogolian madman. To go over and make a conductor gesture in front of the guitarist would have seemed uncool to this Devoto.

Now, of course "cool" is silly, something we grow out of just as surely as we lose our youthful arrogance. But cool and arrogance create their own power, a power that seems to have been lost in these new performances. I'm sure that new forms of power replaced it, though: a warm sense of nostalgia, a sense of genuine human frailty, the maxim tempus fugit, and so on.


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(no subject) - (Anonymous) Expand


(Anonymous)
Sun, Feb. 15th, 2009 11:37 am (UTC)

The Pixies were and are fine as a reunion. I think this is because:
- They were never a pop band
- They always looked embarrassing
- They always dressed badly
- They always represented outsiderdom
- Their core emotions - surreal, angry, frustrated, animalistic - can even improve with age


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(Anonymous)
Sun, Feb. 15th, 2009 11:39 am (UTC)

Mission of Burma too, and the Breeders to some extent


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(no subject) - (Anonymous) Expand

imomus
imomus
imomus
Sun, Feb. 15th, 2009 02:29 pm (UTC)

One little in-joke that only hardcore Magazine fans will get: in the 2009 version of Model Worker



Devoto sings "I know Obama will look after me". The original version of the song said "I know the cadre will look after me", but so many people misheard it as "I know that Carter will look after me" that Devoto made that the official lyric. Then when Reagan was elected, he sang (in particularly chilling tones) "I know that Reagan will look after me". And now (skipping Bush pere, Clinton and Bush fils entirely) it's Obama who will look after the immortal communist backslider.


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imomus
imomus
imomus
Sun, Feb. 15th, 2009 02:32 pm (UTC)

By far the best audio and video quality in this video (part of a series still being posted, I think and hope):


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imomus
imomus
imomus
Sun, Feb. 15th, 2009 02:51 pm (UTC)

Part 2, which contains Parade, one of my favourite songs ever.

Now that I'm out of touch with anger
Now I've nothing to live up to
I don't know when to stop joking
When I stop I hope I am with you


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Years of perusal - (Anonymous) Expand



(Anonymous)
Sun, Feb. 15th, 2009 06:14 pm (UTC)

How eerily appropriate--just had an accident the other day, fell down a flight of stairs, hurt myself pretty badly, but doing all right now thanks to drugs--at least I can lie in bed and type! And enjoy this great song.

But how sad I feel thinking of Magazine and my brother--he, who was usually a very pop consumer, bought the first two Magazine albums when they came out, and I was immediately captivated (though I still prefer the Wire albums of that period). Surely my brother was the only Magazine fan within five-hundred miles of us then--and now he's dead, and Magazine is alive, after a fashion. You're right--bringing back the dead is wrong, it places them within a context where they no longer make sense and a world they don't belong in, as if I were to bring back my brother and expect him to cope with the world today.


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(Anonymous)
Sun, Feb. 15th, 2009 07:35 pm (UTC)
Ambivalence

What a great series of posts - I'd sensed there must be better analysis out there and here it is. Of course this was an exhumation, but like that of a medieval saint, the body was remarkably preserved and fragrant, which just goes to show thirty years of canonization wasn't so misguided. And that I did know a good thing when I saw it.


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