John Jacob Niles

This is another departure. John Jacob Niles (1892— 1980) was known as The Dean of American Balladeers. As a collector of traditional songs he was very influential on the folk music revival of the 1960's.
I saw John Jacob Niles on TV when I was a child. I had nightmares afterwards. I was convinced that I had been watching a ghost.
There was an other wordliness about his undulating falsetto, eerie strained expression and his huge Appalachian dulcimer. Add to this the subject matter of his songs- murder ballads and songs of doomed love and death- and the haunting effect was complete...


Nat Tate

My local library's copy of Nat Tate, An American Artist 1928-1960 by William Boyd is still in pristine condition. The last time I checked I think it had been taken out four times, and it's glossy spine occupies an almost permanent position amongst the books on Modern Art.
I moved it once , into the fiction department, but some fastidious librarian, guided by the coded sticker, had moved it back by the following day.
Boyd might be pleased to know that twelve years after the publication of his now celebrated hoax, that there is a corner of Wales in which the deceit endures.
Of course, when the book was launched, (readings by David Bowie, no less...) not one art critic actually came out and said 'Nat Tate? Never heard of him...'
I can imagine them all laughing with a measure of relief when the book was revealed to be a hoax.
The Emporer's new clothes, my friends...


A Clockwork Orange- OST (1972)

Rest assured I'm not walking around this provincial Welsh town in a bowler hat and false eyelashes brandishing a cane and threatening tramps with a tolchock on the gulliver.
But I've long been a fan of A Clockwork Orange.
Trying to see the movie in the 80's and early 90's was, of course, quite difficult. My VHS copy had Dutch subtitles.
Kubrick's film is full of what is now considered classic retro imagery:

Burgess, writing in 1961, had envisaged the book as being set in 1972, but introduced the highly stylized speech and fashions as a means of 'futureproofing' ; Kubrick envisaged the story taking place at the end of the 20th century, but did not seek to create a vision of the future as he had done in 2001. The images that Kubrick and production designer
John Barry created were
stylized visions of the then present, drawing on the Pop and Op art influenced interior design and architecture of the day.
The dystopia of Alex's high rise estate actually was just that; the movie is a depiction of Wandsworth , Borehamwood, Thamesmead and Hertfordshire in 1971.

What I hoped for, having seen
2001: A Space Odyssey, was an expert attempt at visual futurism. A Clockwork Orange, the book, had been set in a vague future which was probably already past; Kubrick had the opportunity to create a fantastic new future which, being realised in décor, could influence the present.
Anthony Burgess You've Had Your Time (1990)

Anyway, here's the original soundtrack from the movie:


Аквaриум- Равноденствие (1987) Aquarium- Equinox (1987)

Reader Shemp recently requested more from Аквaриум , a band featured on Red Wave- 4 Underground Bands From The USSR.
This is ripped from one of those MP3 compilation discs that are so popular in Russia. For a reasonable price you can by a well packaged disc that contains several albums. The only downside is that the bitrate tends to be 192.
The word eclectic just about does justice to the diversity of Аквaриум, formed in Leningrad in 1972. They proceeded through the usual channels of квартирники (kvartirniki-apartment concerts) and магнитиздат (magnitizdat-underground recordings) whilst the organs of the state suppressed rock music.
There's a history of the band here, and more on the album Равноденствие here.


Richard Dadd

The painter Richard Dadd (1817-1886) photographed by Henry Hering at Bethlem Royal Hospital (c.1856).



Australia should become a republic when Queen Elizabeth II dies, Prime Minister Julia Gillard has said just days ahead of a general election.

Welsh-born Ms Gillard said the Queen's death would be an "appropriate point" for Australia to move away from having a British monarch as head of state.

I'm all for that!
And why not extend the move to Britain itself?
When the old lady passes away let's kiss the antiquated money pit that is the Royal Family goodbye.A secular republic is still a state, but a more rational one perhaps.



In 1961, convinced he was dying, the English author Anthony Burgess (1917-1993) wrote five novels in an attempt to guarantee a future income for his wife.
one of these books, which Burgess later described as being knocked off for money in three weeks, and largely ignored at the time, was A Clockwork Orange.
Various filmmakers (including Warhol) had toyed with the story during the 1960's.
In 1970 Burgess heard that Stanley Kubrick (1928-1999) was going to film the novel, news he received with some trepidation: I foresaw a dangerous situation for myself and I was right to do so...
Burgess and Kubrick, as befitted two geniuses, had an interesting relationship.

Burgess had earlier written a screenplay of the novel for a proposed adaptation to star The Rolling Stones. For the Kubrick production there was no screenplay per se; using the novel as a guide Kubrick had the actors improvise the scenes. Burgess (along with leading man Malcolm McDowell) resented Kubrick being credited with the screenplay. In terms of financial reward Burgess collected a relatively small sum from Warner's in an out of court settlement (whereas Warner's had paid the lawyer who owned the option on the novel $200,000). Burgess however, collected awards on behalf of the reclusive Kubrick, and worked with him on an unrealised Life of Napoleon.
Even though Burgess had no involvement in the film's production , the way in which its notoriety forced him into the spotlight obliged him to defend it.
Some elements of the novel are more disturbing than those of Kubrick's film. For example, in the book the gang members are only 14 years old. On the other hand Burgess' Alex (from the latin A Lex- without law) renounces the thrills of 'ultraviolence', whereas Kubrick worked from an American edition of the novel that lacked this final, redeeming chapter.
Amid the media hysteria in which crimes perpetrated by people who had never even seen the film were attributed to its influence, there was one event that stands out for special consideration. I've never seen it, but in what must have been a truly bizarre piece of television, the BBC asked Burgess to defend the film in front of an almost unanimously hostile audience. And who did the BBC choose to host this? Some expert on modern literature perhaps, or an eminent criminologist? Someone who was in a position to comment on the causal link between viewing or reading habits and maladaptive behaviour?
I'm not making this up. They chose (Sir) Jimmy Savile (OBE), the famous disc jockey.

Burgess: Ow's about that then?

The scapegoat Burgess was not allowed to put his case across or to effectively challenge the views of the audience. He did manage to get in the great argument that if indeed there was a causal relationship between literature/ drama and violence then having seen or read Hamlet millions of people would have been incited to kill their uncles.
Burgess would comment years later: If they can give Jimmy Savile a knighthood, well, the honours system is so dishonoured that one wouldn’t want it.
For all the tribulations that the scandals surrounding the film caused Burgess he must have taken some comfort from the fact that when Penguin reissued the novel in the wake of the film's release it sold 50,000 copies in two weeks.

Further reading:
Stanley Kubrick; A Biography by John Baxter (1997).
You've Had Your Time, Being the Second Part of the Confessions of Anthony Burgess by Anthony Burgess (1990).


Jonathan Richman- Egyptian Reggae (2001)

As founder of the Modern Lovers, he showed fussy teens everywhere that they, too, could be funny brats with smart songs... Chris Colin in Salon (Sept 2001).

We all know about how punk rock rebelled against the excesses of progressive music by going back to basics and using a DIY ethic. But Jonathan Richman was putting this into practice about three years before anyone else.
In 1970 Richman formed the first version of The Modern Lovers in Boston, along with Jerry Harrison (later of Talking Heads) and David Robinson (The Cars).
In 1972 they recorded demos produced by John Cale.
The Modern Lovers released their only LP after breaking up, a massively influential work in punk/ new wave circles.
In 1976 Richman reformed the band, and this is a compilation (released in 2001) of some of the highlights from their second incarnation.


A group of sufferers from Dementia Praecox (Schizophrenia)

Taken from Kraeplin's seminal textbook, 1899 edition.


Hurra Torpedo- Kollossus of Makedonia (2006)

Norway's Hurra Torpedo are billed as the world's leading kitchen appliance rock group.


Dinosaur Jr.- Bug (1988)

The 3rd LP from Dinosaur Jr., released in 1988. It opens with the incredibly potent Freak Scene. J Mascis has described it as his least favourite Dinosaur Jr. record.

J Mascis - guitar, vocals
Lou Barlow- bass, vocals
Murph- drums



The venerable Highlander regularly features poetry on his excellent blog ,Cactus Mouth Informer .

I know that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, but I'm not going to have regular poetry posts. It's just that I chanced on this poem by Charles Bukowski, and it pressed some button. Read more of his verse here...
Bukowski's novels, by the way, are well worth a read.


the history of melancholia
includes all of us.