WHEN THE WEIRD CAN'T GET GOING.
Where can people go to get weird? We used to have Kings Cross but even the gangsters have realized that dope and sex pale to insignificance when considered in relation to real estate .
Maybe now that sex, dope and gambling are right there in everybody’s computers and phones; right in their homes or at least in the palms of their hands in the back of a taxi or bus; maybe, they don’t need to go anywhere to get weird?
Perhaps they/we need a place to go to straighten out then. Just as good. “Love and hate are both horns on the same goat!” yelled Kirk Douglas in the epic movie, “The Vikings”.
I’m in showbusiness. I know show people. If they’re any good, they’re completely off the scale of freakiness. It goes with the territory. You can only wander onto your own stage. You have to have gone off for a piss and a look around early on. Some of these show people are in hiding, ones I see pretty regularly. Some mightn’t have “made show” in years. They’re still show people. Nobody ever asks us how anything works. Things like the gig economy. We watched them jump off the cliff.
Show people, at best – carny folk. Watch your stuff! Can you believe there is actual talk about “having conversations” about mental illness in the music scene? Have they not heard of the blues? Blue notes? Blue Note itself? one of the greatest jazz labels of all time? Syd Barrett? Roky Erikson? Bud Powell? Charlie Parker? Hank Williams? Thelonius Monk? Sandy Denny? Judy Garland? Judee Sill? Laura Nyro? Billy Holliday? Nick Drake? Joe Meek? Jim Morrison? Brian Jones? Tragic, thrilling villains, clowns and gods, all of them.
William Burroughs wrote about a place called Johnson in one of his later books.
“In this world of shabby rooming houses, furtive gray figures in dark suits, hop joints and chili parlors the Johnson Family took shape as a code of conduct. To say someone is a Johnson means he keeps his word and honours his obligations. He's a good man to have on your team. He is not a malicious, snooping, interfering self righteous trouble making person. - The Place of Dead Roads (1983)
He was writing about retired show people, all coming to one town when they finally hung up their tired old scams. That’d be nice.
Burroughs last series of books were great to read as they came out in the 80s. He seemed to be squaring up his entire written narrative with an 18th century novel (Cities Of the Red Night), and then 19th (The Place Of Dead Roads) and 20th century (The Western Lands) narratives. What a character Burroughs was! Can you imagine him being present in todays thin and super sensitive public realm? He’d have to be introduced and defined to the bored and uninterested audience as it paraded by, scrolling the world on their screens. What would they choose to better see him by? What narrow window to better frame him? His drug of choice? His having murdered his first wife? Him being an heir to the Burroughs adding machine accounts? His description of women as being “a curse” or “two hole freaks”?
Perhaps he’d just finally break into a sweat and pull out his guns and start shooting apparent media workers as they camped outside his small town window? That’d be something everybody could understand.
What an everyday world it seemed, that could contain a presence like Burroughs. And his British counterpart JG Ballard with his typewriter and gin and tonics in suburban Shepparton, outside London, writing the world up in even more thrilling , cold, sleek and beguiling veins of living possibilities. They wrote of “sexual homecomings”, languages being viruses from outer space, diseases in time, manias and every kind of sex unimaginable. Their words inspired several rock bands names as well, in Burroughs case, as the term “Heavy Metal” itself and many movies. There is a very well understood 21st Century adejective – Ballardian - which is shorthand for a whole cultural moment. And its never really describing anything nice.
Those two were wise to danger and over exposure and kept their powder dry and its threatening power sharp for the duration of their times on earth. Characters like Hunter S Thompson and Tom Wolfe had some fierce windows of heat for a while but each was easily swallowed by the very world they set out to describe. It turned back on them like a stormy twister and sucked them in and off something shocking.
Michelle Houllebecq is a twenty first century man of words who could be said to be of comparable stature. He seems to be able write of things that then eventuate in images on tv and telephone screens and newspaper opinion pieces. They walk off the page and off the set, quickly.
Its hard for writers or players to be superbad nowadays though. How could you be worse than any of the political figures and their mobs in power in the USA or the UK or Australia. I mean, even if you had access to all sorts of drugs that could blitz your brain or glam your eyes or give you the general whim whams AND a crew of people to catch you when you fell and mop your brow as you encountered intense swells in the aether, these people would be sure to harsh your buzz. Their sheer shittiness has sharp and tangy cut through. They would sober you up. And there’s nowhere you could go to get weird? Isn’t that the saddest thing? This is where I’m leaving you readers. In the shitdom. The fouled lattitudes. When the weird can’t get going cos the going can’t get weird.
Dec 2nd - Dave Graney and the mistLY playing a house party in Richmond.
Dec 4th Dave Graney and Clare Moore will be part of THE SONGROOM at the Northcote Social Club. A series of shows about songwriting and collaboration devised by THE BASICS. Graney and More are paired with RUDELY INTERRUPTED. To be filmed for a television show. Tickets here.
Dec 26th - Dave Graney and Clare Moore will be playing their annual BOXING DAY show at the Hotel Metro in Adelaide.
January 3rd Dave Graney solo at MONA in Hobart.
January 4th Dave Graney solo at the Homestead in Hobart.
January 4th Dave Graney solo at the Homestead in Hobart.
January 24th Dave Graney and the mistLY will be playing at the Winnebago Lounge (Caravan Music Club)1 Victor Rd, Bentleigh East VIC Tickets here.
New Dave Graney memoir - WORKSHY out on Affirm press. Get it here.