ARTHUR BEST OF 2007 LISTS No. 6: Michael Simmons

BEST OF 2007 – Michael Simmons

I’ve never much believed in the artificial man-made time blocks called ‘years’. As the late Skip Spence used to say, “I do not worship the Time God.” I’ve always been comfortable living in the past, present, and future simultaneously, killing time with the earthly as well as the departed. Karen Dalton, my favorite singer of 2007, has been dead for almost 15 years. This past year saw the first release of early live sets of Karen’s called Cotton Eyed Joe: The Loop Tapes/Live in Boulder 1962 (Delmore Recordings). Two CDs and a short DVD from 1969-70 shot by a French film crew. Sweet Mother K.D., as her friend Freddy Neil dubbed her, was too real for the shopping mauled world of 20th Century America. She must’ve seen the 21st Century coming, cuz she checked out in time to miss it completely. (You ain’t missin’ nothin’, baby.) Her voice was an exposed nerve wrapped in a fragile rose. Reminiscent of Billie Holliday, another fragile flower, Karen sings eternal standards some call folk music on Cotton Eyed Joe. From Woody (“Pastures of Plenty”) to Bascom Lamar Lunsford (“Mole In The Ground”), from Freddy Neil (“Blues On The Ceiling”) to many songs written by Public Domain (the greatest songwriter ever!), she exudes more soul than a white person can rightfully claim. Soul is a lost value in 21st Century America, primarily because it ain’t for sale. One either has it or doesn’t. No singer with soul shows their pussy to the paparazzi. But the sexiest singers show their soul through song. So it is with Karen.

I owned her first two albums on vinyl back in the day: It’s So Hard To Tell Who’s Going To Love You The Best and In My Own Time. The first was released in 1969, the second in 1971. Both have been re-issued on CD. Out of the blue in aught-seven comes these new/old recordings. Her voice doesn’t have the more urbane edge of the later records and that’s partly the charm. She is simply one of the greatest blues singers ever without belonging to any category. In the 1970s I had a band with Peter Stampfel of the Holy Modal Rounders called The Wipe-Out Gang. Peter invited his friends to come sit in with us at gigs. I got to jam and record with Bill Barth and Luke Faust of the wonderful Insect Trust. I begged Peter to get his friend Karen to join us. He would ask her and she said she’d come down, but never did. “Missed it by that much!” as secret agent Maxwell Smart used to say. It’s now 35 years later. I’ve been having a lousy century thus far, but I’ve got these recordings by Karen Dalton and she keeps me company in a cold, cold world.

Michael Simmons blogs on the Huffington Post and is on the Arthur Council of Advisors. A lifelong musician, he will begin playing live again in 2008.

ARTHUR BEST OF 2007 LISTS No. 5: John Coulthart


1) 2007 was The Year of Cormac McCarthy. The Road won a Pulitzer, the Coens made a film of No Country for Old Men and the man himself talked to Oprah in his first, and possibly last, TV appearance.

2) Gigs: Machinefabriek in Manchester and Boredoms in Manchester. Two events that were polar opposites but equally electrifying.

3) Book of the year: The Black Dossier by Alan Moore & Kevin O’Neill. A wonderful smorgasbord of pastiche combining comics, prose, a Shakespearean play, a free pair of 3D glasses and more obscure British cultural reference than you can shake a loaded blunderbuss at.

Honourable mention to The BUTT Book, the first 16 issues of BUTT magazine in one fat volume.

4) Album of the year: Ekvílibríum by Valgeir Sigurðsson. A tremendous debut by the Icelandic producer with guest appearances by Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy, Dawn McCarthy and others.

Honourable mention to Raising Sand by Robert Plant & Alison Krauss.

5) CD reissues: An Electric Storm by White Noise and The Complete On The Corner Sessions by Miles Davis.

6) DVD releases: A great year for cinematic work which had been difficult or impossible to see suddenly becoming available for all. Among the highlights: Jordan Belson, Jodorowsky’s major works, Kenneth Anger’s Magick Lantern Cycle, Tim Buckley’s TV appearances, Jan Svankmajer shorts, Lindsay Anderson’s If…, Cammell & Roeg’s Performance and three films by Derek Jarman.

7) Work: The Mindscape of Alan Moore. DeZ Vylenz’s documentary finally made it onto DVD, packaged and designed by yours truly.

8. Films: Hollywood’s products continued to be barely worth following but I did enjoy Perfume (a successful adaptation of Patrick Süskind’s novel), Zodiac (David Fincher getting serious at last) and it was good to see new work from David Lynch. Film of the year for me (although it’s actually from late-2006) was John Cameron Mitchell’s Shortbus, a funny and joyful drama which managed to show real people–gay, straight or otherwise–having real sex and enjoying it for once. Mitchell said he wanted his film to serve as “a small act of resistance against Bush and the America we live in”; it’s that and a whole lot more.

9) In 2007 I finally managed to see some cinematic obscurities I’d waited decades to watch again. The peerless Ubuweb turned up a copy of Impressions de la Haute Mongolie, a bizarre quasi-documentary collaboration between José Montes-Baquer and Salvador Dalí from 1975 concerning a quest for giant hallucinogenic mushrooms in Upper Mongolia. Then there was Images, Robert Altman’s 1972 psychodrama (made between McCabe and Mrs Miller and The Long Goodbye) which had been out of circulation for years, and David Rudkin’s TV adaptation of The Ash Tree by MR James, also from 1975, and still as creepy as I remembered it.

10) The Arthur resurrection. Because you can’t keep a good magazine down.

John Coulthart is a Manchester-based artist, designer, archivist, historian, writer and blogger. His work has appeared in Arthur countless times.


Top 20 highpoints of 07

1. Mani Neumeier of Guru Guru (literal god of krautrock) playing with Acid Mothers Temple, and subsequent incredibly inspiring interview in my living room.

2. DJ-ing before a brief Zipper reunion in Portland– Fred Cole of Dead Moon’s old Zep-like 70’s uberrock band, aided by members of Danava.

3. Playing guitar with Damo Suzuki network in Chicago, along with John Herndon, David Daniell, Josh Abrams, etc–it went from like space-reggae to total funky noise. Plus Damo cooked us all “asian soul food.” i can basically die happy now.

4. My band, Plastic Crimewave Sound doing shows in Canada with one of my all time fave groups, Simply Saucer–!! They still sound SAVAGELY psychedelic and nice guys of course. Canada spoiled us rotten–Andre/Steve in Montreal, Bijon in Ottawa, SR in Toronto–we love you!

5. Plastic Crimewave Celestial Vision Guitarkestra 1 at Empty Bottle– 57 guitars made people puke, cry, kiss and hand each other guitars to play… it sounded like an endless ocean of “E”….ahhhhhhhhhhhh

6. Exhibiting work in the NY art show “Frock n’ Roll”–haven’t seen so many righteously glammed out folks in one place ever, and had a total blast at the opening.

7. Getting a private concert in Ruthann Friedman’s living room in Venice, CA…the hairs stood up on the back of my neck! She somehow let me strum her $10,000 Martin guitar too.

8. Backing MN fuzz-garage-folk renaissance man/legend/saint Michael Yonkers in Chicago for my GZD release party.

9. Interviewing Vashti Bunyan, such a sweet lady– truly an angel of sorts. I almost wept during the show…the release of the “Some Things Just Stick in your Mind” 2LP earlier stuff is also wondrous.

10. Tracking down and interviewing Chicago experimental 80’s provocateurs ONO, and lead singer Travis chanting for my 3rd Guitarkestra.

11. DJ-ing with Portland’s Maura “Mystic Lady’ Arraj in Chicago–heavy riffs and red wine prevailed! yeaaaaaah!

12. Tony Joe White show at Schuba’s–that man can growl and play lusty wah wah like no one else!!

13. The Source book, at long last–Yod’s legacy explained–i laughed, i cried, i aligned my chakras.

14. DJ-ing with Elvin aka Nobody in LA, before the Entrance Band slayed all with walls of heavy bloozrok.

15. Awesome reissues– Bee Gees box of first 3 albums plus MUCHOS bonus material of unreleased miserable psychedelic ballads and elegaic hymns, Mark Fry’s-“Dreaming with Alice”- transcendent UK acid-folk from a mere teenager, Nick Garrie, Baby Grandmothers, Possessed, Crushed Butler, Michael Yonkers “Grimwood,” Ed Askew “Little Eyes,” “Wall of Soundalikes” Spector-isms, ooh and those COB bonus tracks too….

16. Psychedelic art exhibit at the Whitney–it could have been bigger and less SF/UK focused, but i’m sure i’ve never seen so many sweet posters in one place.

17. Interviewing svengali-extraordinaire Giorgio Gomelsky in NY– it was about 3 hours of the most fascinating stories ever! Magma, the Yardbirds, no-wave, Julie Driscoll, Blossom Toes, Ornette Coleman– he had a hand in it all. Thanks to Virginia Tate for hookin me up…

18. Marissa Nadler at Ronny’s in Chicago, 3 mics of different vocal treatments and incredible songs–plus a classy red evening gown all in a not-so glorified garage. I was also introduced to opener Angel Olsen, who will take the world by storm soon.

19. Playing the Diamond Days fest in NY, commandeering the hot-shit communal drone band (“the PCW Expanse”) of Samara Lubelski, SR Palm, Virginia Tate, Adam La Otracina, and Kathy, Georgia and Taralie of Spires That in The Sunset Rise.

20. Playing that Four Tops record over and over with Libby; picnics on the lawn with special caramel; exploring Chicago music history; watching Son of Svengoolie and reruns of Lost in Space, Night Gallery and Twilight Zone on Me TV….whew i guess 07 was a good year.

Steve Krakow is Plastic Crimewave. He writes, he draws, he edits the magazine Galactic Zoo Dossier, he broadcasts, he organizes, he plays music in his band the Plastic Crimewave Sound. Amazing!

ARTHUR BEST OF 2007 LISTS No. 3: Cary Loren of The BookBeat

1. Against the Day by Thomas Pynchon, phenomenal epic on light, science, anarchy and modernism. Best of 2006-2007 and perhaps the decade. Viking/Penguin

2. Mistress Oriku by Matsutaro Kawaguchi first time English translation and publication of a classic tone poem set in Meiji era Tokyo about a former Geisha and her artistic Tea house on the edge of encroaching change. Tuttle press

3. Braindead Megaphone by George Saunders. Hilarious essays on a variety of current cultural signposts. Riverhead Press

4. Blood Tea and Red String on DVD, a stop-animation gothic religious vision of dolls, mice and Oak forest creatures – a 13 year obsession by young filmmaker Cristine Cegavske.

5. Electric Salome: Loie Fuller’s Performance of Modernism by Rhonda K. Garelick, brilliant book that gives justice and recognition to this early performance artist. Princeton University Press

6. Fantod Pack, Edward Gorey’s gruesome tarot deck, Pomegranate

7. The UFO Factory in New Detroit

8. Silmaril: The Voyage of Icarus “captures the dark, mysterious, and achingly beautiful acid folk & Christian-themed psychedelic sounds” Locust double LP.

9. International Day of Peace September 21st.

10. Propinquity: Propinquity -neglected folk rock classic of 1973, reissue Asterisk, CD

11. 20 to Life: The Life and Times of John Sinclair DVD a film by Stephen Gephardt

12. Koudelka by Robert Delpire, Dominique Edde, Anna Farova, and Michel Frizot, Aperture, NY.

13. Cameron Jamie retrospective at MIT may-July 2007, and the eclectic designed catalog; Cameron Jamie by Philippe Vergne, Kathy Halbreich, Cameron Jamie, and Charles Bukowski. Walker Art Center, Pub.

14. Me and My Brother book and DVD set by Robert Frank, Steidl Press

15. The Original Art of Basil Wolverton From the Collection of Glen Bray by Glen Bray and Doug Harvey and Monte Wolverton, Last Gasp

16. Day is Done by Mike Kelley essay by John Welchman, Yale University Press

17. Black Panther: The Revolutionary Art of Emory Douglas by Danny Glover, Kathleen Cleaver, Amiri Baraka, and Sam Durant, Rizzoli

18. Nathaniel Mayer: Why Don’t You Give it to Me? Alive Records CD/ LP

19. Jim Shaw: Distorted Faces & Portraits 1978-2007, with lovely bonus 53×37-inch fold-out poster dust-jacket portrait of Ronald Reagan’s face embedded with violent American figures like Manson and Rambo. JRP Ringier

20. Wipe That Clock Off Your Face by Brian Belott book and DVD, Picturebox, Inc.

21. Storeyville by Frank Santoro, Picturebox, Inc.

22. Mario Bava Box Set Vol. 2, Back Bay

23. Monster Island: The Children of Mu, End is Here records, double LP

24. Independent press Process Books gets the freakout award for reissuing Guitar Army by John Sinclair, and publishing The Source: The Untold Story of Father Yod, YaHoWha 13, and The Source Family by Isis Aquarian and Electricity, Moondog: The Viking of Sixth Avenue by Robert Scotto and Eye Mind: The Saga of Roky Erickson and The 13th Floor Elevators, The Pioneers of Psychedelic Sound by Paul Drummond all in the month of October, wow!

25. In Memory of Shakey Jake, Theresa Duncan and Jeremy Blake, RIP

Cary Loren runs The BookBeat, an independent bookstore open since 1982 in the Detroit area.

ARTHUR BEST OF 2007 LISTS No. 2: Kevin Doria of GROWING

KEVIN DORIA of GROWING – Best of 2007

In no particular order:

1) Brady to Moss connection. Not since Montana to Rice has the viewing public been granted the gift of art through professional football. It’s a beautiful lesson, really. Magic of unprecedented levels can be reached when an obnoxious yuppie teams up with a misunderstood genius. Don Shula is a self-loathing fascist. The kings are dead. Long live the kings.

2) Brownsounds. A small “record label” that no one will ever know of. Small vinyl only runs of fine musical output by some of my favorite artists. If you can find the records… buy them.

3) The rise and collapse of Rudy Guiliani. Eat a dick, fuck nuts.

4) Clint Bowyer. More proof that NASCAR is in a slow descent to the darkest level of hell. What started out as what could’ve been the feel good story of the year ended like McGovern’s brutal defeat in ’72. What’s become of the finest sport ever conceived on American soil? Rich Californians and wealthy Europeans have surrounded over five generations of American moonshiners and are moving in for the kill. The South has fallen again.

5) Designer babies. Ah, the gifts of science.

Kevin Doria is a member of the band Growing, who were cover featured by writer Peter Relic and photographer Eden Batki in the still-available Arthur No. 22 (May 2006).