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This Recording

is dedicated to the enjoyment of audio and visual stimuli. Please visit our archives where we have uncovered the true importance of nearly everything. Should you want to reach us, e-mail alex dot carnevale at gmail dot com, but don't tell the spam robots. Consider contacting us if you wish to use This Recording in your classroom or club setting. We have given several talks at local Rotarys that we feel went really well.

Pretty used to being with Gwyneth

Regrets that her mother did not smoke

Frank in all directions

Jean Cocteau and Jean Marais

Simply cannot go back to them

Roll your eyes at Samuel Beckett

John Gregory Dunne and Joan Didion

Metaphors with eyes

Life of Mary MacLane

Circle what it is you want

Not really talking about women, just Diane

Felicity's disguise

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Wednesday
Nov022011

In Which We Invest Everything In Lou Reed

Try It At Least Once

by HANSON O'HAVER

"I would cut my legs and tits off/ When I think of Boris Karloff" is how the Lou Reed/Metallica (henceforth: Loutallica) album, Lulu, begins. Immediately it's clear that this album is going to be something of a head scratcher. This is solidified :50 into the song, when Metallica's James Hetfield enters and begins repeatedly singing the words "Small town girl" in his best Nickelback impression.

By the time Lou Reed sings "Me I'm happy/ 'cause I got my little nappy" and you wonder if that's slang or if the aging Mr. Reed is genuinely happy because he got to take a nap (maybe Laurie Andersen plans lots of activities?), you have two choices: put on Loaded (or Kill 'Em All, depending on which band brought you here) or drop the 'hows' and 'whys' and just go with it. If you at all care about interesting music, choose the latter option. Remember that image macro that made the internet rounds a few years ago of the bear surfing on a shark, shooting a gun with the text "Meth: Try It At Least Once"? Loutallica is kind of like that.

Lulu has been called Lou Reed's follow up to Metal Machine Music, his 1975 album composed entirely of four LP sides of guitar feedback. His motives behind Machine — was it a "fuck you" to fans? To critics? His label? — remain unclear, and he doesn't even claim to like it ("If you made it past Side 1, you're stupider than I am"). What's critical is that it was released into a totally different market.

In 1975, a listener could only afford to buy a finite number of records, which meant that they looked to record reviewers (see: Robert Christgau's Consumer's Guide) to tell them what was good (e.g. worth their money). In 2011, music is free; the only investment is the time it takes to listen. Which means: it's less important that an album is good in the long term investment sense (Lulu mostly isn't), and more important that an album is interesting to the point of being worth listening to for however long you choose to listen (Lulu definitely is).

While critics usually talk about how interesting an album is in the text of a review, there's really not a uniform system in place to reflect this in any given score. This is the fundamental problem of music criticism in 2011: How can critics give an album one score that reflects two different criteria? For example: Lulu is both sonically worse and infinitely more interesting than Wilco's latest, the bland but competent The Whole Love. Which gets a better review?

More realistically, Lulu is the follow up to Berlin, his 1973 rock opera filled with drugs and sex and spousal abuse, an album whose depressiveness is only matched by its ambition. It's also a sort of follow up the onstage banter during the live Take No Prisoners version of "Walk on the Wild Side", in which he talks shit on music critics. A key line in a Lulu's second track (and first single), "The View", is "For worship someone who actively despises you", a sentiment that either describes a relationship between the song's characters or critics' relationships with Lou Reed.

"The View" is also the most jarring song on Lulu and inspired numerous jokes, perhaps the best among them being "I didn't know Lou Reed worships his fans." Get it? (Because people hate it.) That "The View" was released as the album's single is proof that either the artists involved in the album have no desire for it to have any sort of success (with fans or critics), or that they have no idea what their fans want. It's also not hard to imagine that Lou Reed knows it will be received terribly and that Metallica doesn't, as evidenced by Lou Reed saying things like (to GQ) "I've loved Metallica since I was a kid."

Artist Seldon Hunt told Pitchfork editor Brandon Stosuy that Lulu sounds like Woody Allen yelling a joke in your ear at a Limp Bikzkit concert; "The View" sounds like Woody Allen and Limp Bizkit singing a round. Lars Ulrich hits a cymbal for the duration of the song, and it culminates in James Hetfield yelling "I AM THE VIEW I AM THE TABLE I AM THE VIEW I AM THE TABLE I AM ALL THIS I AM THE ROOT THE PROGRESS THE AGGRESSOR I AM THE TABLE I AM THE TEN STORIES I AM THE TABLE I AM I AM I AM I AM I AMMMMMM." It's nutty.

There are things I want to say about every song on Lulu: "Iced Honey" is a genuinely great song. Were it the only Loutallica song, people would be freaking out about how good it is. "Junior Dad" sounds like the title of a long-lost Mr. Show sketch. It's 20 minutes long, and the back half is just a keyboard drone. The second silliest moment on the album comes near the end of the song, when the music gets quiet and Lou says "Get the coffee, turn the lights on/Say hello to junior dad". The silliest moment is at 3:30 during "Pumping Blood", when Lou yells "C'mon James!"

I have thought about Lulu more than almost any other album this year, with the possible exception of Drake's Take Care.

Hanson O'Haver is the senior contributor to This Recording. He is a writer living in New York. He tumbls here and twitters here.

"Mistress Dread" - Lou Reed & Metallica (mp3)

"Iced Honey" - Lou Reed & Metallica (mp3)

"Satellite of Love" - Lou Reed (mp3)

Tuesday
Nov012011

In Which We Start Dating Elvis Presley

This is the first in a two-part series.

An Elvis Timeline

by ELLEN COPPERFIELD

Thanks to Peter Guralnick and Ernst Jorgensen's supremely detailed 1999 book, Elvis, Day by Day, the trivial details of Elvis Presley's life are open and accessible to any inquiring fan. Guralnick and Jorgensen used letters, receipts and financial records to tell Elvis' story. Things were gangbusters for a while there.

January 9th, 1935

Elvis' stillborn twin brother Jesse is buried near Tupelo, MS.

June 1st, 1938

Elvis' father and uncle arrive at Mississippi State Penitentiary to serve a three year prison term for forging a check.

September 1st, 1941

Elvis enters the first grade.

March 10th, 1943

Vernon Presley quits his gig at the Pepsi Cola Bottling Company in Tupelo.

October 3rd, 1945

Elvis places fifth in a children's talent competition at the Mississippi-Alabama state fair, singing "Old Shep," a song about a poisoned dog. He receives $5.

at Graceland in 1957

September 3rd, 1948

Bullies cut the strings of Elvis' first guitar. His fellow eighth graders raise enough money to buy him new strings. In a few months, Elvis' family moves to Memphis.

September 20th, 1949

The Presley family moves into the Memphis Housing Authority projects. Their two bedroom apartment is $35 per month.

September 20th, 1950

Elvis' grades continue to drop, although he receives an A in English. The following summer he gets his first job, operating a drill press at a company that produces rocket shells.

February 1st, 1952

Elvis' mother Gladys gives up her job as a nurse's aide because the family is making too much money to qualify for public housing. She later went back to her job when Elvis became so tired he fell asleep during class.

February 26th, 1954

Elvis starts dating 14-year-old Dixie Locke. They mostly go to double features at the drive-in.

October 2nd, 1954

After recording a few tracks, Elvis makes his first appearance at the Grand Ole Opry and quits his job at Crown Electric.

January 3rd, 1955

Elvis buys a car to transport himself and his band from gig to gig. It is a used 1951 Cosmopolitan Lincoln with a rack on top for the bass.

March 23rd, 1955

Elvis flies on an airplane for the first time for a New York audition in front of talent scouts. They laugh in his face.

February 22nd, 1956

After touring constantly over the past year and a half and recording his first professional singles, Elvis collapses from exhaustion outside a show in Jacksonville. He is twenty-one years old.

March 7th, 1956

Elvis reads the script for what would have been his first acting role, The Rainmaker. His untrustworthy agent Colonel Tom Parker tells him not to show to it anyone except his parents.

June 5th, 1956

After a performance on The Milton Berle Show, the Times claims that "Mr. Presley has no discernible singing ability." Another reporter writes of "a display of primitive physical movement difficult to describe in terms suitable to a family newspaper."

June 20th, 1956

Elvis violates Memphis' segregation laws by appearing at a "colored night" at the Fairgrounds with his girlfriend June Juanico, formerly an admiring fan.

July 21st, 1956

Elvis trades in his Cadillac for a pink 1956 Lincoln Premiere.

August 16th, 1956

Elvis flies to Los Angeles for principal photography on Love Me Tender. He goes away with Natalie Wood for a weekend. She was also dating Robert Vaughn, and later said of Elvis, "He felt he had been given this gift, this talent, by God. He didn't take it for granted. He thought it was something that he had to protect. He had to be nice to people, otherwise, God would take it all away."

at his girlfriend's house in Biloxi

February 25th, 1957

In a Memphis newspaper Louis Armstrong tells a reporter, "I'm definitely gonna do a record with him. You'd be surprised at what we could do together. You ask me if I think he's good? How many Cadillacs was it he bought? That boy's no fool."

March 10th, 1957

Elvis' former girlfriend and sometimes companion June Juanico informs him she's engaged to another man.

April 6th, 1957

Villanova students throw eggs at Elvis' face, striking only his guitar. For next two months, Elvis stays at the Beverly Wilshire so he can record new tracks at MGM studios before filming Jailhouse Rock.

Elvis at the gates of Graceland soon after they were installed, April 1957

July 5th, 1957

Elvis' Jailhouse Rock co-star Judy Tyler dies in a car accident in Wyoming.

July 13th, 1957

After one of his handlers introduces him to 19-year-old Anita Wood, a beauty contest winner he saw on Memphis TV, the girl has dinner at Graceland with Elvis and his parents. He tries to get her in bed that night but she declines.

September 20th, 1957

Elvis and his band part ways after they complain to the press about their compensation. He fires his new guitarist early in 1958 after the man's friend is caught fondling a poster of Jayne Mansfield.

October 7th, 1957

Elvis attends a wrestling show and goes home with a female wrestler named Penny Banner afterwards.

Elvis and Judy Tyler on the set of Jailhouse Rock

March 21st, 1958

Elvis buys a 1956 Ford for Anita Wood.

March 24st, 1958

Elvis enters the army in Memphis and is bused over to Arkansas. Later in the week, a riot breaks out when he is spotted at a truck stop in Texas.

June 4th, 1958

During his furlough in Memphis, Elvis records material for his planned absence and continually rents out the Fairgrounds and a local skating rink for parties.

August 9th, 1958

Elvis finishes up his course in Advanced Tank Training.

August 14th, 1958

The failing liver of Elvis' mother takes her life. In six weeks Elvis arrives in Germany for his deployment.

in Germany

December 21st, 1958

Elvis brings a live-in secretary to Germany to handle his fan mail. He drives a leased white BMW 507 along with a black Mercedes sedan.

March 5th, 1959

Elvis starts dating a German actress and visits the Moulin Rouge in Munich.

April 13th, 1959

Elvis' gig in the camp is driving visitors around to celebrate the 3rd Armored Division's 18th anniversary. His army salary is $122.30 a month.

September 13th, 1959

Elvis starts dating a 14-year-old named Priscilla Beaulieu. Her father serves in the United States Navy. Her mother's infatuation with Elvis predates her own. Her parents encourage the couple. She sneaks cigarettes behind his back.

Priscilla at Elvis' departure from Germany

March 5th, 1960

Elvis is released from the army at 9:15 a.m in New Jersey. Three days later in Memphis, he meets up with Anita Wood for the first time since he left the country. When she asks him about Priscilla, he tells Anita, "She's just a friend."

April 8th, 1960

Anita Wood dyes her hair black to match Elvis'.

July 21st, 1960

At a bullshit ceremony, Elvis receives his first-degree black belt in karate.

September 3rd, 1960

Elvis pays cash for a black Rolls Royce Silver Cloud II.

October 25th, 1960

Elvis' purchase of a monkey at Katz Drug Store for $123.55 completes a collection of dogs, parrots, chicken, pigs, and mynah birds.

Ellen Copperfield is the senior contributor to This Recording. She is a writer living in San Francisco. You can find an archive of her writing on This Recording here.

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"Are You Lonesome Tonight?" - Elvis Presley (mp3)

"It's Now or Never" - Elvis Presley (mp3)

"Blue Hawaii" - Elvis Presley (mp3)

Monday
Oct312011

In Which We Were Pretty Much Dead To Begin With

White Flight

by DICK CHENEY

The Walking Dead
creator Frank Darabont
Sundays at 9 on AMC

Only white characters are permitted backstories on AMC's The Walking Dead. If you are white, you have a beautiful child who looks exactly like you and a charming meet-cute story about how every other person you know died from a bacterial infection but you made it out alive. Should you be hurt in the days that follow, never fret. Your pallid Caucasian exoskeleton will survive direct gunshot wounds without complications. You are basically invincible and impervious to pain. If you're a person of color on The Walking Dead, you'll probably just end up killing yourself by accidentally slashing your wrist.

the buddy system

The show's currently surviving characters of color, who have never exactly been named, are portrayed by Anthony Anderson and the little Chinese kid in the second Indiana Jones. He even has the same hat. Anderson, for his part, seems to have done well in recent years. (He also hosts a show on the Golf Channel.) These young men aren't allowed to go about with the other white characters. They have a buddy system, like little kids on a field trip to the aquarium. Someone asks them condescendingly, "Did you close the gate?" as if they would forget and leave it open to the undead.

be there for her, Glenn

The Korean fellow, Glenn (Steven Yeun), can't even close out an attractive woman's attentions on him as she mourns the passing of all her male friends. All her dead ex-boyfriends are immortalized on her refrigerator in a haphazard shrine to her loneliness. Glenn just sits there, he doesn't even put his arm around her. When the saddened young woman Maggie (Lauren Cohan) showers him with attention, he refuses her advances and suggests she take up sex with a whiter member of his party. Not since Newhart has open racism been given such a prominent forum on American television.

You can't have pity sex on The Walking Dead, but you can get excited by Georgia's amazing values on new homes. A raised ranch in a nice neighborhood is absolutely free. Should you desire actual meaning from watching white people shoot zombies in the head with bullets and arrows, don't bothering looking in Robert Kirkman's comic books. They look like they were drawn by a four year old, with a litany of "BAZOOOM" and "GURGGGL"s in place of actual dialogue and drama.

SEE! he closed the gate

In fact, The Walking Dead is drama devoid of all its modern components. It's just people, not usually in conflict, walking around in woods that could be anywhere on Earth, trying to find something interesting to talk about. A full ninety percent of their conversations begin with either the phrase "Dark's coming on soon" or "It'll be dawn in a moment." Talking about the weather is truly the lowest form of conversation. Perhaps what these desperate survivors really fear is the rising and setting of the sun?

We think of the bubonic plague as a singular outbreak, but in reality the black death emerged for the first time during the age of Justinians. It took a break of a few thousand years, waiting for people to experience new sins. No one was white then, they were mostly tan. As in The Walking Dead, every survivor spoke in exactly the same vernacular, with identical intonations, despite wildly disparate backgrounds. We were all alike, witnessing the onset of something we could not fathom except the Korean kid and the black man who finds himself unable to deviate from the dialogue Danny Glover was given in the first Lethal Weapon

The cliffhanger in The Walking Dead's season premiere consisted of the white boy named Carl getting shot in a hunting accident. It's a law of the jungle that if someone gets shot, they probably had it coming. As if a young boy's bullet wound weren't upsetting enough, the incident is re-lived constantly by every single person involved, as if no one else had died in this Georgian landscape.

"Approach me, white boy!"

Rick Grimes (the British thespian Andrew Lincoln) muffles his accent with a throaty growl, his wife (Sarah Wayne Callies) doesn't have to fake an accent; she puts all her energy into overacting. Her anguish is so over the top at this point, given that she is hardly the only person to have lost someone, that we find ourselves wishing her face eaten off.

Last night's episode featured the far more disturbing image of a man (Jon Bernthal) with hair shaving himself bald, a disturbing sequence which should have merited a TV-MA warning in and of itself. Bernthal's character is not only stricken with guilt for sexing Rick's wife Lori when he was in a coma, but he's also genuinely upset about losing an intra-cast overacting competition to her. On top of that, he had to sacrifice his fat friend Otis to save her son from that hunting wound. Killing hundreds of diseased people merits no sorrow or sadness, but allowing one healthy person to die is a haunting, inescapable crime.

soap is inexhaustible during the end times

In fact, the unfortunately named "Shane Walsh" (the handle doubles as Jon Bernthal's porno name) has nothing to be ashamed of. Sure, he originally made a mistake that caused his best friend Rick to become catatonic. Correct, after that he made sweet love to Rick's wife and treated the man's child as his own. And yes, after Rick showed up from the dead he got very drunk and scared the shit out of Rick's wife. And then to save Rick's son from death, he had to sacrifice another innocent. So basically, yeah, nothing to be ashamed of.

The man I shot while hunting quail was 78 years old he also survived, although he now has about 30 pieces of birdshot lodged in his chest for the rest of time. When you shoot someone by accident, to show the slightest bit of regret or disappointment gives the entire game away. And don't shoot children when you're out hunting it's frowned upon, even when there is no intent. Don't hunt deer, either. That deer could be someone's mother; a fresh quail tastes like Linda Hamilton.

So what is there to enjoy about The Walking Dead? I have no idea, can only speculate. From time to time it is emotionally profitable to become lost in a place and time not of your own making that is the therapeutic importance of the dream world. The men and women of The Walking Dead have wandered so far from civilization that they can identify no useful landmarks. One highway begins to look like a lot like another road.

At every destination, they find the same leering disappointment no matter how useless their new lives are, they experience each sadness as if it were the first, as if everyone they knew had just then become undead, instead of things having been that way for awhile. The advantage of remaining tragic, instead of gradually feeling better about yourself, is that when the next bad thing happens, you are no worse off than you were before.

Dick Cheney is the senior contributor to This Recording. He is the former vice president of the United States. He last wrote in these pages about Boardwalk Empire. You can find an archive of his writing on This Recording here.

"Tomorrow is a Long Time" - Elvis Presley (mp3)

"Blue Jeans" - Lana Del Rey (mp3)

"Space Junk" - Wang Chung (mp3)