In the chapter “A Bar in the Folies-Bergere,” named for the weird Manet painting, Clark takes you into the “café-concerts” of Paris in the 1860s and ’70s, and captures nearly all that was up for grabs in the Roxy in London in 1977 with a clarity and drama that has escaped every writer who was there, if not the Clash, X-ray Spex, Wire, and the Adverts, who were there, too.2. Sonic Youth, Walls Have Ears (no label)
A deluxe two-LP bootleg, taken from a recent U.K. tour, and a map of where this downtown band can go. It meanders over a blurred terrain until flare-ups cause the music to contract past its surface of cryptic eschatology down to its unstable core: loathing, fatuity, confusion, smugness, play. The goal seems to be to turn amusement into dread, and to sustain dread long enough to turn it into a threat, which can be shaped into a song, which can be destroyed.
3. Ted Nugent, Attempted Commercial Transaction
Westinghouse recently put its Muzak subsidiary up for sale, and the Detroit guitar hero tried to buy it—and kill it. “Muzak is an evil force in today’s society,” he annunced, “causing people to lapse into uncontrollable fits of blandness. It’s been responsible for ruining some of the best minds of our generation.” Nugent’s offer: $10 million. Westinghouse’s response: the 101 Strings version of “Oh No, Not My Baby.”4. Solomon Burke, “Love Buys Love,” from A Change Is Gonna Come (Rounder)
Warm, knowing, perfectly rounded tones from a soul man who even in the heyday of the form never made the Top 20. Accompanied by a band whose touch is as light as it is firm, he sings with complete confidence, which isn’t to say that doubt doesn’t feed his every affirmation, either here or through the long reading of the title song. This is no revival, this is no comeback—this music is anchored, and the anchor goes to the bottom of the sea.
5. James Robert Baker, Fuel-Injected Dreams (Dutton, $15.95)
A unrelievedly hyped-up, luridly funny novel about a legendary ’60s L.A. record producer who marries his Galatea and keeps her locked up in his mansion for years after. Not anyone you’d recognize, of course.
6. Rosanne Cash, “Hold On” (Columbia)
She challenges a man to commit himself to her with such musky self-possession it’s impossible to believe he’s worth the effort. Not as good as “Seven Year Ache,” but what is?7. Hüsker Dü, Candy Apple Grey (Warner Bros.)
Finally—finally, Bob Dylan has recaptured his voice. Thuggish hillbilly drunk on books with a half-ton of plains dirt in his mouth shouting from inside a stampede of blue oxen driven by Paul Bunyan, and yet for all its fury the voice is lyrical, you can almost hear him thinking as he wails, damning the loss of everything that’s left behind as he presses on to wherever it is he has to go.
8. Mekons, Crime and Punishment (Sin EP, UK)
Without the suicidal tendencies of Fear & Whiskey, this lacks weight—the weight of the world. Let’s call it “Fun and Games.”9. Sweet Beat, directed by Ronnie Albert, 1958 (Silvermine Video)
One of the worst movies ever made, or anyway, one of the least—60 pallid British minutes of what the Angry Young Men were angry about. Then the insufferable heroine and her slime date walk into a nightclub where “Fred Parris and the Satins” (one of the Satins had left by this time, so they couldn’t be “The Five” anymore) are trying to lip-synch “In the Still of the Nite.” It’s strange: they’re so ordinary. Their hair isn’t even conked, they all but bump into each other, and the music is still shocking.
10. Asger Jon and Guy Ernest Debord, Fin de Copenhague (Editions Allia reprint, 1957, B.P. 90, 75862 Paris Cedex, France, 100 FF)
Originally cut up, pasted, splattered, and printed (in an edition of 200) in 48 hours, this full-color little book at first seems like a slightly dated satire on advertising. With phrases and slogans from half a dozen tongues seeking whiskey bottles and models like feral orphans hunting for food, it becomes an attempt to extract secret codes from a language everyone understands and no one uses to think. “We have ways of making you talk,” Jorn and Debord seem to say to the fetishized commodity, tied to a chair but still wearing a shit-eating grin—Jorn, Danish painter (1914-73) waving his brush; Debord, “French political thinker” (so says the April Vogue) brandishing his scissors—and the result is advertising transformed into free-floating graffiti. The book now reads as a harbinger of the punk flier, and as a testament to just how far short of its own possibilities that great common art project has stopped.
Village Voice, April 15, 1986