Friday, August 06, 2010

"Walk On The Wild Side" by Lou Reed

Walk on the Wild Side was first recorded by Lou Reed for his 1972 album Transformer; the song is a thinly-veiled biography of the lives and loves of several of the regular superstars at Andy Warhol's New York studio, The Factory - namely Holly Woodlawn, Candy Darling, Joe Dallesandro, Jackie Curtis and Joe Campbell (referred to in the song by his nickname Sugar Plum Fairy). Reed later confessed the inspiration for the song was Nelson Algren's 1956 novel, A Walk on the Wild Side.

Originally this post showed a clip of Reed performing the song on Late Night with David Letterman, sometime in the mid- to late-90s, complete with references to oral sex given by transsexuals and everything; this replacement clip is of a similar vintage, but taken from an unknown source.

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In Memoriam: Andy Warhol

The father of Pop, Andy Warhol, was both revered and reviled in his lifetime; how he was seen in the years between his birth - on this day in 1928 - and his untimely death in February 1987 is pretty much how he's been regarded ever since, although to be fair there's a little more reverence and a little less revulsion in the ongoing cultural assessment of him with each passing year. Not that we here at the Pop Culture Institute have ever been anything less than reverent towards him - in our own irreverent way, of course...

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at PhotobucketBecause he took art seriously but refused to afford himself the same, because he skewered pomposity at every turn with a certain cheeky pomposity of his own, because he wouldn't kiss the ass of gallery directors and owners and the art buying elite but preferred to create and sell his art at his own Factory (let alone because he dared to call his studio - his sacred atelier! - anything as honest as a factory!) and because his earliest successes came as a commercial artist, the Art Establishment at the time often jeered at his work. Not that it mattered; the louder they jeered the more (and better) it sold! If anything he was living proof of the maxim 'you can't sell out if you don't buy in'.

It's just as likely, though, that because he never starved, never really visibly or outwardly suffered for his art*, both he and it lacked the necessary gravitas to be taken seriously by the same pretentious blowhards who shivered in garrets while living on a diet of coffee and cigarettes because they didn't understand art and culture (let alone how they could be marketed and sold) as well as Warhol did. Jealousy, pure jealousy, explains away so much...

Yet his influence on all aspects of culture - including of course pop culture, which he can be said to have founded - cannot be ignored. His famous maxim, stating that 'in the future, everyone will be famous for 15 minutes' has been taken utterly to heart, at least on television, where legions of maladjusted attention whores routinely threaten to crowd out genuinely talented people whether with their head games, sociopathic neediness, and/or off-key warbling... Each of them dreaming of being famous not for their talent or achievements (which is as it should be) but simply for being famous. One wonders what Warhol would have thought of the world he has wrought; likely he'd think it was 'neat' - the most commonly used word in his diaries, which around here have taken on Biblical overtones since they were edited together by Pat Hackett and published in 1989**.

One also wonders what he'd have thought of the plethora of pop culture portrayals of him his extraordinary persona has yielded... Thanks to such performances as Crispin Glover in Oliver Stone's 1991 film The Doors, David Bowie in Julian Schnabel's 1996 film Basquiat, Jared Harris in Mary Harron's 1996 film I Shot Andy Warhol, or even Guy Pearce in George Hickenlooper's 2007 film Factory Girl, which was about the life of Warhol's brightest superstar (and Pop Culture Institute fave) Edie Sedgwick, Warhol's distinctive affect is as recognizable today as it ever was. I think he'd think that was 'neat'...
*He was shot, by Valerie Solanas, in June 1968 - but he was already famous by then, so it sort of doesn't count.
**Plus, they have one all-important thing the Bible doesn't - an index!
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POPnews - August 6th

[Originally built as an exhibition hall by Czech architect Jan Letzel, the since-renamed Genbaku (or atomic bomb) Dome represents ground zero of the bombing of Hiroshima, even though the actual hypocentre of the blast was 150 m (490 feet) away and 600 m (1,968 feet) in the air. As the city was being rebuilt, debate raged over whether to leave the structure standing or demolish it; today its ruin serves as the centrepiece of the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park - as well as an elegant tombstone for as many as 200,000 people killed either directly or indirectly by the blast (many of whom were simply vaporized) - making it a very poignant tribute to survival indeed...]

1284 - The Italian city-state of Pisa was defeated at the Battle of Meloria by Genoa - thereby ruining its once-mighty naval power over the issue of which city had sovereignty over the islands of Sardinia and Corsica.

- Gonzalo Jiménez de Quesada founded the Colombian city of Bogotá.

1661 - The Treaty of The Hague was signed by Portugal and the Dutch Republic, whereby the latter relinquished control over its South American holding of New Holland - better known today as Brazil - to the former.

- Francis II - the last Holy Roman Emperor - abdicated; don't feel bad for him, though, as he was still Emperor of Austria.

1825 - Bolivia gained its independence from Spain.

1845 - The Russian Geographical Society was founded in Saint Petersburg.

1862 - During the American Civil War the Confederate ironclad warship CSS Arkansas was scuttled on the Mississippi River after suffering damage in a battle with USS Essex at the Battle of Baton Rouge the previous day.

1870 - The Battle of Wörth was fought during the Franco-Prussian War, resulting in a decisive Prussian victory for Emperor Friedrich III over French commander Patrice MacMahon; the engagement could more rightly be called the Battle of Reichshoffen, however, or else the Second Battle of Wörth - the first one having been fought in December 1793, at which French general Lazare Hoche handed the Prussians a defeat during the Napoleonic Wars.

1890 - The first person ever to die in the electric chair, William Kemmler, was executed at New York state's Auburn Prison.

1926 - Gertrude Ederle became the first woman ever to swim the English Channel.

1930 - Judge Joseph Force Crater stepped into a taxi in New York City and was never seen again...

1942 - Wilhelmina of the Netherlands became the first reigning Queen ever to address a Joint Session of the US Congress.

1945 - The Japanese city of Hiroshima was devastated by an atomic bomb - nicknamed 'Little Boy' - dropped from the American B-29 bomber Enola Gay.

1956 - The DuMont Television Network made its final broadcast, which was a boxing match at the St. Nicholas Arena.

1961 - Soviet cosmonaut Gherman Titov spent the day in space on board Vostok 2, in the meantime orbiting the Earth 17 times; Titov's flight came just four months after Yuri Gagarin's historic single orbit aboard Vostok 1 on April 12th.

1962 - Jamaica gained its independence from the United Kingdom while remaining within the Commonwealth.

1987 - Dr David Owen resigned as leader of Britain's Social Democratic Party following a vote by party members to merge with the Liberal Party, with which it had sided during the 1983 and 1987 General Elections as the SDP-Liberal Alliance; following the merger the party called itself the Liberal Democrats, although a few stalwarts of the old party (including Owen himself) held out as the SDP throughout 1988.

1988 - The Tompkins Square Park Police Riot in New York City spurred reform of the NYPD, who were responsible for the melee that transpired that night.

1996 - Punk legends Ramones gave their final concert, at The Palace in Los Angeles.

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