That’s me on the left, playing Moog with my friend Skrill Meadow’s group LazerZeppelin. It was the last stop for me on what had been a righteous tour of the southeast – with stops in New Orleans, St. Simons Island, Georgia, Athens, Knoxville, Nashville, Louisville/Lexington, and this gig that I promoted in my adopted city. I booked a local rapper (Froggie “Loose Leaf, The Wise Guy” Sarrington) to open, yet the gig became more of an improvisational collaboration. It was a warm and lovely spring evening. Floating Laboratories was this amazing, cavernous loft space built into the bluffs overlooking the Mississippi. We were playing directly in front of these massive open windows that faced the river. There was a warm breeze, and you could see the tugs and barges making their way along. This was one in a series of pictures my friend, the late photographer Edward Martin took that night.
December 27, 1931 – June 28, 2016
Not many can say they altered the DNA of popular culture, or brought something to the senses of people so revolutionary – that the very way we see art, hear music, or perceive reality is altered for all time. Those accolades are generally reserved for great religious figures, leaders of movements, scientists and philosophers. Yet when three young men from Memphis hit the stage 17 July 1954, they did just that. Music would never be heard in quite the same way again. Elvis Presley on rhythm guitar, Bill Black on drums provided the syncopated sound of a freight train. The cherry on top was Winfield Scott “Scotty” Moore III’s Gibson ES-295 run through a Ray Butts Echosonic amplifier w/tape echo. His leads were a sort of post-modern hillbilly jazz. And if you listen close to his phrasing and timing, you’ll agree he must have been channeling alien intelligence. Scotty died in Nashville on June 28th. He was 84. He was an essential element in the crucibile of American music – yielding pure silver. Safe travels, Scotty, on your journey home.
I remember the first time I saw this clip. I was 17, and it was the most arresting thing I’d seen on MTV to that point. It conceptually blew the doors off Billy Idol’s Rebel Yell video, and was probably made on a fraction of the budget. Alan’s dirty white cowboy boots (how in the hell he didn’t bust a heel off stomping like that is a mystery), jet black shaggy pompadour, and mannequin like maneuvers – recall an Elvis Presley from the tomb. And those Memphis Design Group zombies. Their vacant stares seemed to reflect back the narcissistic malignancy of the Me Decade. Saturn Strip (1983) was the record. It included a tribute to ‘guitar torturer’ Kid Congo Powers (Gun Club, Cramps, Bad Seeds), a very righteous human I’ve had the great pleasure of meeting not once, but twice – in our native Los Angeles, and again here in St. Louis a few years back. With Marty Rev, and on his own recordings, he recorded love songs for an alien future and carried the burning spirit of Rock N’ Roll through the grey and mauve wasteland that was the eighties. Alan Vega died in his sleep on 16 July 2016. He was 78.
“Oh yeah, I can hear.
Mmm I can hear the angels in the heavens,
Singing a hallelujah, hallelujah song for you.
It’s the wipeout beat
It’s the wipeout beat
It’s the wipeout beat,
One-two blues, one-two blues…”
Seems I always get some kind of inclination when it’s time for me to check something out. A hunch or intuition. Clairvoyance? Regardless, I like cowgirls. And big hats and boots – on women. The title to this Tim Robbins book kept getting stuck in my head for some reason. I’ve never read it. Then I kept seeing the soundtrack in the thrifts. And then low and behold – I find this the other day. Yeah, it’s pretty great. It’s got Uma Thurman in a fringed chamois jumpsuit and ten gallon hat. And it’s got all that early nineties zeitgeist going on. But most importantly, it’s funny, and it’s written from a women’s perspective. A parody of the female experience in a “man’s world”. And smart. It helped me understand women a little better, methinks. It came along just at the point in my life when I’m really learning to love myself again. And in turn, well, a change of heart has to start somewhere. My perception of myself is improving. And miraculously, my perception and relationships with the ladies, too is at tide. They never left…they were always right there. I just took a little vacation. Love and fear cannot occupy the same vessel. Hoo hoo, ha ha, hee hee.
Michael Sean Coleman
In one of my past lives working for a very large California logistics concern, I traveled a lonely stretch of desert highway five days a week – to a remote and classified rocket test site on Edwards Air Force Base. I picked up and delivered parcels containing God knows what all. Deeply interested in Eggleston’s work even then, I’d pass this enigmatic location, and think to myself that this would surely be a place Bill would stop, if ever he were out exploring and shooting on the high Mojave. I was out there last summer, and the old sign had been removed. Fortunately Bill made it there first. I have in my collection a small, dye transfer print of this picture – to me it is priceless. It is an important link to my photographic mentor, and my desert roots. A signed edition recently sold at Christie’s auction house for upwards of six figures. I would love to have been the highest bidder. Yet somehow, I’m sure Bill would have just told me to save my money, get some more glass for my old D-300. Or a buy a Leica.