Archive for May, 2016


Mapplethorpe: Look At The Pictures
Robert Mapplethorpe 93.4289 4/18/02 Ellen Labenski
There is a poignant moment in Patti Smith’s highly romanticised and idealised biography ‘Just Kids’ when she describes how on New Years Eve 1969, as the sixties rolled into the seventies, she and this film’s subject matter Robert Mapplethorpe stood looking at the billboards John Lennon and Yoko Ono provided for the major cities of the western world proclaiming ‘War is over if you want it’ apparently inspiring both of them to make their mark in the coming decade; she via the form of wordy message and he through the medium of visual art.
Of course this is like everything that Smith propagates around this time, in that life was an incessant voyage of discovery and although she is obviously an important part of Mapplethorpe’s life-and a personal inspiration to me- I was quite relieved that she only appears in this film through recorded early interviews and even then only as a side figure; rather than allowing her to crowd the tale as she often does when it comes to Mapplethorpe.
Instead, for possibly the first time, the selfishness, ruthless ambition and tendency to use anybody who could help him in any way, through whatever means he had at his disposal, becomes wholly apparent and perhaps this is what he and Smith shared more than anything apart from those very early formative years when their ambitious natures settled on the Herculean task of taking on the world.
Other lovers, friends and family are therefore allowed their say in the making of the Mapplethorpe legend including telling statements from David Croland, Debbie Harry and most revealingly his younger brother Edward. What emerges is a self-obsessed narcissist who used people as he needed them but only if they could further his career. It was a trait he was quite open about, particularly in the case of Sam Wagstaff who had the connections and money to further his career in a way that Mapplethorpe could only dream about. In fact some would say and confirmation exists in a separate documentary film- Black and White and Grey- about the two of them that without Wagstaff’s patronage Mapplethorpe would not have the career that he eventually did.
However it is Mapplethorpe’s work that stands out and his revolutionary approach to taboo subjects such as homosexuality, male genitalia and S&M practices are what ultimately made him successful.Also positioning himself within the photos thus removing the voyeuristic aspect associated with such practices was a revolutionary idea in the seventies; the photo of him administering an enema tube into his own anus is both compelling and fascinating.
His portrait pictures however have not stood the test of time so well and apart from several sessions with Smith-most notably his cover portrait for her revelatory debut album ‘Horses’- his work with women was not always so successful as in both these areas he tended towards a slickness that was too idealised and has no edge in contemporary eyes. His flower shots though are stunning- ‘From flowers to fist-fucking’ is how one contributor describes the dichotomy that lies at the heart of his best work- and show a tenderness and sexuality that is not initially apparent.
This film is extremely worthwhile for anyone with an interest in Mapplethorpe’s work and allows a glimpse of what actually drove the man-ambition, ruthlessness, fame, money and post-death legacy- while still leaving something of the legend intact. The photos, as ever, remain the entire legacy he really needs!
Robert Mapplethorpe: Look at the Pictures is showing at The Filmhouse for the rest of this week only.


Brian Wilson- Pet Sounds Edinburgh Usher Hall May 26 2016
A grey, miserable and rain-soaked Thursday night in late May in Edinburgh could not be further removed from the sun drenched rays of California and the sunshine harmonies and celestial melodies of Brian Wilson and The Beach Boys. However the two came together for an evening where the main architect of the classic album ‘Pet Sounds’-which has its 50th anniversary next month- performed his acclaimed masterpiece in its entirety on a tour he has claimed is the last time he will perform it in this way and possibly at the age of 73 and in frail health will likely be his last major tour.
It is hard top believe now considering its exalted status as one of the all time great albums that ‘Pet Sounds’ was largely ignored on its original release baffling the public with its darker themes of heartache and loss as opposed to the happy-go-lucky surfer sounds their audience thought would last forever on a never-ending cycle of fun, fun ,fun!
However time has revealed an album of infinite depth and it stands tall amongst the game changing works of The Beatles and Bob Dylan-‘Revolver’ and ‘Blonde on Blonde’ respectively- also from the extremely fertile year of 1966.
To whet our appetites though Wilson and his band ran through an extremely palatable selection of some of his greatest hits opening with Heroes and Villains and including California Girls, Do It Again, In My Room, Don’t Worry Baby and numerous others. It became obvious quite early on that Wilson’s once angelic voice has been ravaged somewhat by time but the son of fellow founder Beach Boy Al Jardine- also Wilson’s right hand man on stage- Matthew Jardine more than adequately handled the higher notes allowing the songs to soar to the expected and unexpected heights.
The second half though was what most of the audience were here for and the euphoric opening lines of Wouldn’t It Be Nice opened the set to rapturous applause and something approaching reverence. Don’t Cry Put Your Head On My Shoulder, God Only Knows and I Guess I Wasn’t Made for These Times were standouts but in truth every song hit the spot with Wilson making no changes to the original arrangements. I mean after all why would he when they were already impeccable?
The album delivered to anticipated expectations Wilson and his band left the stage but there was no way Edinburgh was going to let him leave the city boundaries without delivering Good Vibrations and he didn’t disappoint by coming back on and launching into this slice of celestial, space age pop perfection that sounds as weird, beautiful and unlike anything else ever as it probably did in 1967.
After this with the audience in his hand he shifted things up a few notches even more with Fun, Fun, Fun, Barbra Ann, Surfin’ USA and a Help Me Rhonda which just about lifted the beautifully gilded roof of the Usher Hall into a different orbit.
By the end of the night all thoughts of the rain outside had dissipated and the smiles apparent on just about every audience member created enough sunshine vibes to make up for the lack of compatible summer weather to marry to the music. In the end the sheer vibrancy of the night , quality of the music and being in the presence of a living legend- in a year when so many heroes and icons have passed- more than made up for any shortcomings the weather failed to deliver. Joyous is the only word to describe the evening!


Just an Observation
A few diverse and interesting musical treats lined up over the next week. This is encouraging on an Edinburgh scene which in recent times has not been renowned for such things, especially in the wake of a council who seem determined to stamp out any live music scene as soon as it begins.
First up is The Trama Dolls, Boots For Dancing and Paper Cloud extravaganza at the Voodoo Rooms this Saturday-21st May- which looks like being one of those Edinburgh nights out not to be missed. As there were no pre-sale tickets up for grabs beforehand and with interest in the event running very high it is recommended that to ensure entry into what is bound to be a great gig then an early arrival is essential as all places are on a strictly first come first served basis. The doors open at 7.30 and the first band is on about 8 so be there or be square as they used to say!
As if this wasn’t excitement enough then next Thursday sees Brian Wilson bring his legendary ‘Pet Sounds’ to the Usher Hall on the tour he insists will be the last time he ever performs this Beach Boys album in its entirety. I am extremely looking forward to this and having those beautiful melodies combined with celestial harmonies wash over me in some form of musical soul cleansing. Again one not to be missed!
Then on the Saturday following this –the 28th- The Nightingales roar into town for an intimate gig at The Leith Depot which is also close to a sell out already so if this flicks your switch again best move swiftly or face disappointment.
So that is three very different gigs in a week which for Edinburgh is some kind of record although pretty soon it will be back to the likes of Simply Red or some totally forgettable boy band you may or may not have heard of to provide musical treats the council approve of or at least make money out of.
Talking of Edinburgh council it would appear that there are plans afoot to build a new hotel complex in the old town at the back and to the sides of the Central library which due to its positioning will block out the natural light that illuminates the interiors of this beautiful building and which lends it so much of its character.
I personally love the Central Library and during the Festival and in between shows when I need a much needed respite from the over-crowded streets, bars and restaurants of this area I often take a short break to escape the mayhem and soak in its peaceful ambience . If these plans go ahead then that will no longer be much of an option as the only view from the library will be a corporate structure reminding us all that Edinburgh council only really cares about its tourists and very little for its residents.
There has been much talk over the last few weeks about transgendered people and their right to use the toilet of their selected gender. Speaking as someone who is actually ‘gender fluid’ this is an issue I have lived with for years.
It is an ongoing debate I have within myself every time I use a public toilet as without fail the majority of times –about 90% upwards- I use a male toilet I usually get stopped on my way in or after I am actually in and told I am in the wrong place. On the instances I use a female toilet however no-one ever seems to bother and it is a much less intimidating experience.
I found the introduction of disabled toilets a relief as they became more prominent even though I don’t identify as disabled at all but at least it afforded me some privacy without having my motives questioned.
I mean it is not as if I am going to the toilet for any reason other than what it is actually designed for and if I was going for any reasons other than that would I be doing it in such an obvious and noticeable way likely to attract attention? It is something I have to gauge on a different basis whenever I am out as I try to assess which toilet will be the best and safest option for me in that environment and I feel that it should be discretionary.
Those people who are up in arms about trans people and others who are less gender confined using their toilets due to their supposed fears of their threatening behaviour, molestation or whatever really need to question their own threatening behaviour and attitudes. After all we all have to go somewhere so why not in peace!


Just an Observation
So the week after the SNP were trounced in the Scottish elections by a handful of Tories- or so the media would have us believe even though the SNP won by a landslide only narrowly missing their targeted majority- thoughts now turn to the EU referendum. There is a sense of déjà vu about this as the fear factor-migrants, loss of jobs, culture, tradition etc- is once again dredged up as it was during the Independence Referendum and ultimately won out over common sense.
What is different this time is the Brexit campaign to leave is spearheaded by the buffoon section of British politics, Boris Johnson, Nigel Farage Iain Duncan Smith et al versus the sneaky, underhand and conniving one of Cameron, Osborne and cohorts. Trying to make a decision based on outpourings of that gruesome bunch is like being asked to choose between polio and cancer.
Certainly the consensus thus far is that Scotland is keen to stay and it will be interesting to see what transpires if the rest of the UK decides to leave, especially with the independence issue raising its head again more and more frequently.
Anyway I have little time for politics at the moment as I am more concerned whether women should be forced to wear high heels at work, as receptionist Sara Thorp was told she had to when she turned up for her first day at work at an accounting firm.
I was unaware that heels were mandatory in such situations and personally have never really been able to grasp the whole uniform thing from school onwards at all. Obviously I am aware that some sort of corporate identity must be established in the work place but uniformity is something I have always struck out against. I have never understood the value or necessity of ties for instance other than to make the wearer feel constricted or as if they are having the life choked out of them, although this might actually be the point.
Likewise heels force the same amount of restrictions and discomfort on their wearer and I really can’t see how this will enhance performances in the work place at all. Surely footwear should be something that is comfortable to the wearer- not that comfort is my first choice in selecting footwear but that is a matter of choice- and provided it is smart then the height of the heel should be up to the wearer. I am by no means suggesting a battered old pair of comfy Converse is suitable work-wear but anything that is on your feet for up to ten hours a day then it should be suitable to the situation and the person wearing them.
How would those imposing such legislations on their workers feel if a man turned up in a two-inch pair of kitten heels or a woman wore a suit complete with Windsor knotted tie?
Would the same rules apply?
Anyway all this talk of heels brings me neatly to the return of The Trama Dolls who are making a hotly anticipated return next Saturday May 21st. Not that wearing heels is an essential requirement- there may be a hint of a heel or two but for aesthetically pleasing purposes only and not restricted to the females either- but being glam definitely is and there is no way any member of this outfit will ever be sent home for failing to meet this requirement as it is inbuilt into the very DNA of the band.
They are playing alongside the equally wonderful Boots For Dancing the pesky post punk outfit who merged funk attitudes with punky rhythms and spiky guitars to create a much loved sound still regarded fondly today. Paper Cloud an acapella group complete the line up to create a varied and highly exciting night out for only £7 at the Voodoo Rooms at 7.30 on Saturday May 21st. Definitely one for the diaries I feel. More details to follow next week but in the meantime the link below will take you to the Facebook event page with full information!