Friday, April 19, 2019

Destroy All Monsters – "Nobody Knows" (1979)


Where I come from, nobody knows
Where I’m going, everybody goes

[NOTE: It’s a red-letter day for 2 or 3 lines!  Steven Lorber, host of the Rock Continuum show on Takoma Park’s WOWD-LP FM, has invited me to appear on that show next Monday, April 22, from 4-6 PM to discuss some of the best songs featured on 2 or 3 lines in the nine-plus years since I gave birth to it.  

If you live in the Takoma Park area, you can listen by tuning to 94.3 on your FM radio. If you don’t, just go to https://takomaradio.org/ and click on the “LISTEN LIVE” link located at the top of the home page.  

For those of you who don’t already know about my wildly popular little blog, the post below – which originally appeared on April 8, 2016 – will serve as an introduction to the wonderful world of 2 or 3 lines.  Once you’ve read it, you’ll mos’ definitely want to tune in on Monday!]

*     *     *     *     *

“Nobody Knows” is the 1000th song to be featured on 2 or 3 lines in the six-plus years of its existence.  (Sort of.)

If you know anything about me, you know that I take milestones like that very seriously indeed.  

For example, the 100th song featured on 2 or 3 lines was “House of the Rising Sun,” which I first heard 50-plus years ago, and which still gives me chills when it comes on the radio.  

The 500th song I wrote about on my wildly popular little blog was another of my all-time favorites, “Shake Some Action,” by the Flamin’ Groovies.

I first heard both “Shake Some Action” and “Nobody Knows” on Steven Lorber’s “Mystic Eyes” radio program, which aired Saturday nights on the legendary Washington, DC station, WHFS-FM.  

WHFS bumper sticker
WHFS played a lot of records that no other radio station in the area played, and Lorber played a lot of records that no other WHFS disc jockey played.  

In the summer of 1980, I recorded a couple of dozen “Mystic Eyes” shows.  A few years ago, I found another WHFS fan who agreed to convert my “Mystic Eyes” cassette tapes to MP3 files and burn those files on to CDs for me.  

I vividly remembered some of those songs on those CDs (despite the fact that I hadn’t heard most of them in 30 years) – for example, The Last’s “She Don’t Know Why I’m Here,” which was the song I chose to feature in the very first 2 or 3 lines post I wrote.

But many of the songs on those CDs were utterly unfamiliar to me – including “Nobody Knows,” which Lorber played only once on all the shows that I recorded.

This post is special not only because it features a fabulous song, but because it includes an interview with the singer of that song – Niagara.

Niagara
Kim Gordon, Courtney Love, Cherie Currie, Wendy O. Williams, Ari Up . . . none of those bitches can outdo Niagara when it comes to being a punk femme fatale.  Besides being the ne plus ultra of rock frontwomen, she’s an artist whose works have been exhibited in Japan, the UK, and Australia as well as in New York, Los Angeles, and her hometown – Detroit, Michigan.

Here’s how journalist Brett Callwood described Niagara in a 2009 Detroit Metro Times article:

Niagara is beautiful and striking in person, ageless even – comfortably sitting somewhere between Audrey Hepburn and Patti Smith.  Indeed, alongside Debby Harry, Niagara was the punk poster girl of choice for any hormone-riddled boy who happened upon a Destroy All Monsters record cover or a picture in an old CREEM magazine.  She oozes a kind of '50s-esque, perfect-skinned glamour, but there's this rough edge, as if beneath a seemingly unruffled exterior there's both an innocent little girl and a worldly woman who just skated on this side of total rock 'n' roll tragedy. . . . The mixture of innocence and worldliness gives her demeanor and her art a mildly intimidating quality.


I’m very pleased that Niagara agreed to be interviewed for this very special 2 or 3 lines:   

2or3lines:  Destroy All Monsters included former members of two legendary Detroit groups, the MC5 and the Stooges.  Who are some of your other favorite musicians? 

Niagara:  Alice Cooper, Nico and the Velvet Underground, Frank Zappa, Captain Beefheart, the Bonzo Dog Band . . . and Gilbert and Sullivan.

2or3lines:  Gilbert and Sullivan?  Really?

Niagara:  I liked many Gilbert and Sullivan operas.  I liked "Mikado" best.   "Iolanthe," too.  I hated "The Pirates of Penzance."

2or3lines:  There are a couple of different stories going around concerning where you got the name “Niagara.”  One is that it was given to you by an older sister because you would cry like a waterfall when she shut you in a dark closet.  

Niagara:  My sister didn't lock me in a closet like you envisioned, but she and our cousin – who were were ten years older – used to torture me in quasi-personal-peril-type threatening behavior.  If I cried, they called me "Niagara.”


2or3lines:  You and several other University of Michigan art students formed Destroy All Monsters in 1974.  Tell us about how the group got started.  

Niagara:  My boyfriend Cary Loren and I wanted to start a band and were considering our options.  On the evening of December 29, 1974, we were about to do a photo shoot (as usual) and go to a party (ditto).  [Fellow art students] Mike Kelley and Jim Shaw came over and we were going to take them with us.  Mike suddenly asked me, "Do you sing?"  They had been thinking the same band thing.  We hadn't really considered them because neither played an instrument.  That became beside the point and we practiced the next night so we could show up a day later at this New Year's Eve party at a comic book convention . . . only two days after we formed the band.  

2or3lines: So the plan was that you would perform at that party – just two days after you got the idea of forming a band?


Niagara:  Later, no one in the band remembered how crazy that time-frame was . . . including me . . . but I have diaries (which I read with much amusement, years later).  So . . . we invaded the New Year's Eve party . . . insisted on opening for some band.  They agreed and asked our band's name.  I still have the list of names that we had conjured up but we didn’t like any of them.  We looked at each other blankly until Jim Shaw answered, “DESTROY ALL MONSTERS.”  And it was good.   

2or3lines:  There’s a 1968 Japanese Godzilla-Mothra monster movie titled "Destroy All Monsters."  Is that where Jim Shaw got the name?

Niagara:  Jim had many comic books in his room, and I saw one titled “Destroy All Monsters” there when we first met.  I didn't know about the Japanese horror movie at that time. 


2or3lines:  Let’s go back to the group’s first performance at that New Year’s Eve party just two days after you decided to form a band.  I’m almost afraid to ask this . . . but how did it go that night?

Niagara:  Almost everyone there hated us . . . which I figured meant we were off to a good start.  I remember that we played "Iron Man" for a noisy while.  Our drum was a coffee can, which we beat with a bone until they kicked us off the stage.

2or3lines:  Mike Kelley and Jim Shaw left Ann Arbor in 1976 to attend the California Institute of the Arts in Los Angeles, and both went on to have considerable success in the art world – a couple of months ago, I happened to read a New Yorker review of a Jim Shaw exhibit at the New Museum in New York City.  What happened to DAM when Kelley and Shaw headed west?

Ron Asheton
Niagara:  The legitimate Destroy All Monsters began in earnest in 1977 when Ron Asheton (lead guitarist for the Stooges) and Mike Davis (bass player for MC5) joined the band.    

[Note:  Michael Davis became the bassist for the MC5 in 1964, and played on Kick Out the Jams and the band's other two original albums.  After the band broke up, Davis was convicted on a narcotics charge and did time in a Kentucky federal prison, where MC5 guitarist Wayne Kramer  was also an inmate.  When Davis was released from prison, Ron Asheton invited him to join Destroy All Monsters.  After DAM broke up, Davis – who had been an art student At Wayne State University in Detroit before dropping out to join MC5 – played with a couple of other groups and became a painter.  He died in 2012 when he was 68.]


2or3lines:  I first heard "Nobody Knows" on a Washington, DC radio show in 1980 – the year after it was recorded – but I only rediscovered it a few years ago.  "Nobody Knows" is credited to you and the late Michael Davis, the former MC5 bass player who ended up in DAM.  Tell me how "Nobody Knows" was written.  What did each of you contribute to it?

Niagara:  Ron Asheton and I were sharing an apartment with Mike at the time.  It was high up in a huge attic.  I came home from somewhere and Mike wanted me to write lyrics for his new song.  He played it for me on his guitar and I picked out the chorus from scratchings in my song book.  Then I wrote the rest of the song right then.  It usually doesn't happen automatically . . . but sometimes it does. 

2or3lines:  What do you think are the best songs DAM ever recorded?

Niagara:  “Bored” and “You're Gonna Die.”  Many people are dedicated to "November 22nd, 1963,” which other bands have covered.


2or3lines:  You and some art students who didn’t know how to play an instrument started DAM on a whim – but you ended up fronting an edgy and very influential band that included guys from a couple of the greatest punk/rock groups ever.    

Niagara:  I thought DAM would last a couple years.  Being able to be in a band with Ron Asheton – my favorite guitarist – was the best luck.  And after DAM broke up, we both ended up with Dark Carnival.  So I ended up being in bands with Ron Asheton for about 20 years. 

[Note: Dark Carnival was an aggregation of Detroit musicians that was put together in the mid-1980s by a local promoter who went by the moniker of “Colonel Galaxy.”  The next 2 or 3 lines will feature a Dark Carnival song and more of Niagara’s fabulous art.]

Deniz Tek with Niagara
I asked Deniz Tek, the singer/guitarist/songwriter who brought Detroit-style punk rock to Australia in the 1970s, what he thought of Destroy All Monsters generally and “Nobody Knows” in particular:

I was best friends with Ron [Asheton], and after he started up with Destroy All Monsters, I closely followed their musical path. . . . When they came out with “November 22, 1963” and “Nobody Knows,” everything sort of came together in a perfect storm of DAM greatness. . . . ”Nobody Knows" was a well-crafted tune.  [DAM’s bass player] Michael Davis wrote the music, I think – he used that fabulous F# over D chord (which I later stole).  Niagara's vocals hit a new evocative peak of originality, stretching into new areas – growls, cat meows, everything.  (Loved it when she spat out "You go!").  Mike and Rob [King, DAM’s drummer] had the engine room running at full power.  And Ron's guitar playing was probably his best since [the Stooges’] Fun House album.  I found the whole thing inspiring, as I was just starting my own solo career that same year.  It was great to know that my pals were on the right track and hitting new highs.

[P.S. – After reading the above post, Niagara sent me a ringing endorsement and a warm, heartfelt invitation to keep in touch: I finally forced myself to read this.  You're a much better writer than was expected.  You are a dedicated vintage musicologist. Thank you for sending.  Write anytime.  Almost.]

Click here to listen to “Nobody Knows.”

Click below to buy the song from Amazon:

Tuesday, April 16, 2019

Chris Tomlin – "Amazing Grace (My Chains Are Gone)" (2006)


My chains are gone 
I've been set free 

It takes a special kind of faith to view death not as something to be feared, but as something that sets one free from his or her earthly chains.

The family of Teressa Rosalind French – a 16-year-old student at Covenant Life School in Gaithersburg, Maryland, who was struck and fatally injured by a speeding car while walking near her school on January 24, 2014 – possesses that special kind of faith.  

Teressa Rosalind French
The Teressa Rosalind French Foundation, which honors Teressa’s life on earth by providing scholarships and grants that enable students to attend Christian schools and camps and participate in worthy faith-based activities, represents the transformation of that faith into something tangible. 

*     *     *     *     *

Among other things, Teressa was a popular member of the Covenant Life basketball team.  A friend of hers told the Washington Post that she was “so exuberant that she even smiled when she once scored a basket for the other team.”


“She was always happy, always smiling,” according to that friend. “Biggest encourager on the team. . . . She would pick everybody up.”

So it’s fitting that the “Teressa French Tip Off Basketball Tournament” is held each year at Covenant Life to raise public awareness of her foundation.  

I first became aware of the Teressa Rosalind French Foundation when I was assigned to referee one of the tournament games last November.

Later I spoke to Teressa’s mother, Monika French, about her daughter and the foundation’s mission.


2 or 3 lines:  Mrs. French, your foundation’s website states that it was established “to honor Teressa Rosalind French for her lively and lovely spirit and to ensure her influence continues for generations to come.”  As I understand it, the money raised by the foundation is used to provide scholarships and grants to young students to encourage their Christian education and spiritual growth.  

Mrs. French:  The Christian schools where we offer scholarships – schools like Covenant Life School and Rock Academy in San Diego, which Teressa attended when our family lived there – encourage students to have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ while also providing a distinguished, well-rounded education.  But private schools can be expensive, and many families need financial help in order to be able to send their children there.  We also provide grants to members of church youth groups so they can go on mission trips to share the gospel.

2 or 3 lines:  Involvement is athletics is one of the criteria you use to choose scholarship recipients.  Tell us about Teressa’s involvement in athletics, and why you think participation in sports benefits students.


Mrs. French:  Teressa played soccer, basketball and softball.  She won the “Most Improved Player” award from both her basketball and her softball coaches.  I was raised to play a sport for each semester, and I passed that on to my children.  Being active is important for good health, and Teressa enjoyed the  camaraderie of being a team member.  

2 or 3 lines:  You give special consideration to military dependents when it comes to choosing scholarship recipients.   

Mrs. French:  Yes, we do.  We believe that the children of those who serve in the military serve their country, too, and we want to honor that service.

2 or 3 lines: As the family of a Navy admiral, I’m sure that you moved around quite a bit.  Was it hard for Teressa to always be the new kid in class?

Teressa's high school classmates presented
 this award to her parents at graduation
Mrs. French:  Teressa lived in nine different places in her 16 years.  But moving to new places was never a problem for her.  She welcomed the opportunity to make new friends.  When Teressa turned 16, she wanted to invite everyone in her class from school to a Nationals baseball game – even though she was told by some of her friends that certain people in her class wouldn’t fit in.  But she invited everyone in her class, and all of them came.  It was a great 16th birthday!

2 or 3 lines:  I know you have a fundraising event for your foundation coming up soon.  Tell us about it.

Mrs. French:  On Saturday, May 19, we’re holding the “Sweet-T 5K Benefit Walk” at Covenant Life School in Gaithersburg, Maryland – Teressa’s school – to not only raise money but also to get the word out about the work of the Teressa Rosalind French Foundation.   There will be food, music, and fellowship, and everyone is welcome.  But we especially encourage church youth groups to attend the walk so they can learn more about the scholarships and grants that the foundation offers.  Registration for the walk is now open, and you can click on this link to register for or get more information about the event.

Some of the participants at last year’s
“Sweet-T 5K Benefit Walk”
2 or 3 lines:  Mrs. French, thank you for taking the time to tell us about Teressa and the foundation that you and her father have created to honor her by supporting the education and spiritual growth of other young people.  I wish the foundation much success in its endeavors.

*     *     *     *     *

“Amazing Grace” – which was written by John Newton, a 18th-century English slave trader who later became an evangelical Anglican clergyman and outspoken abolitionist – is a very well-known and beloved hymn.  

Christian recording artist Chris Tomlin’s version of “Amazing Grace” – which combines Newton’s original verses with some new verses written by Tomlin – was a particular favorite of Teressa French.


Click here to listen to Chris Tomlin’s “Amazing Grace (My Chains Are Gone),” which was released on his 2006 See the Morning album.

And click here to if you would like to honor Teressa French’s memory and support her family’s good works by contributing to the Teressa Rosalind French Foundation.


Friday, April 12, 2019

Grass Roots – "I'd Wait a Million Years" (1969)


I’d wait a million years 
Walk a million miles
Cry a million tears 

The singer of “I’d Wait a Million Years” wouldn’t really wait a million years, walk a million miles, or cry a million tears just to have you near him.  

Those lines are an example of what the ancient Greeks called hyperbole – defined as an exaggeration not meant to be taken literally.

People often use the word “million” hyperbolically.  But sometimes a million is just a million – and sometimes a cigar is just a smoke. 

As you can see from the photo below, my wildly popular little blog recently had its millionth visitor.  (I had hoped to get a photo of the counter as it rolled over from 999,999 to 1,000,000, but that was like trying to catch lightning in a bottle – I blinked and I missed it.) 


Who the millionth visitor was and where he or she is from, nobody knows.  (About half of our traffic comes from the good ol’ U.S. of A.  The countries that contribute the most visitors after the U.S. are Russia, the UK, Germany, France, Canada, Italy, Ukraine, Australia and Brazil, respectively.)

What we do know is that 2 or 3 lines continues to blow up after almost ten years in existence!

2 or 3 lines is purt near a stick of dynamite, boys and girls.  That’s as plain as the nose on your face – it don’t make me no never mind if you don’t agree. 

*     *     *     *     *

“I’d Wait a Million Years” isn’t the first Grass Roots song to be featured on 2 or 3 lines, which is as it should be.

If you wanted to pick a quintessential 2 or 3 lines, you could do a lot worse than the Grass Roots.  


For one thing, they had their greatest success during what I like to call the golden decade of pop music – which consists of the years I was in junior high, high school and college.

Second, the Grass Roots’ hits were as eclectic as all get out, combining elements of folk rock, R&B/soul, and “British Invasion” music.  A lot of their singles featured brass instruments, something that was relatively rare at the time.  

Third, 2 or 3 lines has always had a soft spot for studio musicians in general and the Los Angeles-based “Wrecking Crew” conglomeration of studio musicians in particular.  The Grass Roots – who were the creation of P. F. Sloan and Steve Barri (who wrote “Eve of Destruction” for Barry McGuire, “You Baby” for the Turtles, and “Secret Agent Man” for Johnny Rivers) – originally relied on “Wrecking Crew” members like Larry Knechtel and Joe Osborn.

Eventually Sloan and Barri persuaded a Los Angeles band called The 13th Floor to become the Grass Roots.  While those musicians toured, Sloan and Barri continued to rely heavily on studio musicians for the group’s recordings.

Click here to listen to “I’d Wait a Million Years.”

Click on the link below to buy the song from Amazon:

Monday, April 8, 2019

Chocolate Watchband – "Are You Gonna Be There (At the Love-In)" (1967)


Are you gonna be there
When I make my mark?

Any day now, 2 or 3 lines is going to hit the million-visitor mark.  (I see you shiver with . . . an-ti-ci-pa-tion!)

We’re almost to one million visitors!
Be honest.  When the first 2 or 3 lines post appeared purt near ten years ago, did you believe that my wildly successful little blog would hang around long enough to attract one million fans?

You didn’t?

Well, fie on all you doubting Thomases – not to mention you doubting Barbaras and Dianas and Karens and Lindas!

They’re gonna be there (at the love-in)!
To quote my main man Maino, 

I wave hi to the haters,
Mad that I finally done made it
Take a look and you can tell
That I'm destined for greatness

(What Maino said, brothers and sisters!)

*     *     *     *     *

To celebrate this milestone, 2 or 3 lines is going to host a big-ass love-in.  

Are you gonna be there?  At my love-in?

If you’re not sure just exactly what a love-in is, let me quote Wikipedia:

A love-in is a peaceful public gathering focused on meditation, love, music, sex and/or use of psychedelic drugs. . . . [It] is often connected to protesting social or environmental issues.

We’ll be skipping that meditation nonsense, by the way, and getting right into to the good stuff.  (Don’t expect any crap about social or environmental issues either.)

They’re gonna be at the love-in, too!
The love-in will take ASAP after 2 or 3 lines goes over a million visitors.  If you’d like an invitation, please e-mail me at 2or3lines@gmail.com.  (If you’re a guy, we might run out of invitations before we get to you.  Just sayin’.)

*     *     *     *     *

The Chocolate Watchband was a garage band that formed in 1965 in Los Altos, California.  

Los Altos was a modest suburban community back then, but today it’s part of Silicon Valley and has some of the priciest real estate in the United States.  Apple co-founder Steve Jobs, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, and Google co-founder Sergey Brin have all called Los Altos home.

The most important thing that ever came out of a Los Altos garage wasn’t the Chocolate Watchband, but the Apple I computer.  (Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak built the first 50 of those computer in Jobs’s garage in 1976.)

“Are You Gonna Be There (At the Love-In)” was released in 1967 on the Chocolate Watchband’s first album, No Way Out:



The album has been re-released by Sundazed Records, an independent label that specializes in re-issues of cult sixties albums.

Here’s how the Sundazed website describes the Chocolate Watch Band:  

A band whose reputation has grown exponentially over the decades, the Chocolate Watch Band [sic] are now revered as one of the “Seven Wonders of the World” of garage rock.  Spotlighting the classic lineup – the inflammatory vocals of Dave Aguilar and the roof-rattling guitars of Mark Loomis and Sean Tolby, fronting the rock-solid bass of Bill Flores and the letter-perfect drums of Gary Andrijasevich – the Watchband's first two albums have it all.  Stones swagger snake-hips its way through cosmic significance with just a dusting of eye-opening psychedelic legerdemain to make your neck snap backwards in pure joy.

I love the Sundazed catalog, but they might want to tell whoever their copywriter to tone things down a bit.  Here’s 

One final note: whatever you do, please don’t confuse the Chocolate Watchband with the Chocolate Watch Band, a London band that issued two singles in 1967.

Click here to listen to “Are You Gonna Be There (At the Love-In).”

Click on the link below to buy the song from Amazon:

Friday, April 5, 2019

Glen Campbell – "Dreams of the Everyday Housewife" (1968)


Such are the dreams of the everyday housewife
You see everywhere any time of the day

Since I retired a year and a half ago, a lot of people have asked me, “What is retirement like?”

The answer to that question suddenly hit me today.  Once I tell you what my typical day as a retired guy is like, the answer will probably hit you, too. 

*     *     *     *     *

The first thing I do most days – after performing my morning ablutions and (if necessary) putting the laundry in the washing machine – is visit my mother, who has resided in a nearby assisted-living place for almost three years now.

I drag her to the morning exercise classes, empty the junk mail out of her mailbox, and make sure she has all the supplies she needs (toilet paper, shampoo, etc.).


Next, I run errands – I go to the local community center to work out, hit the grocery store, maybe go to the bank or post office, and so on. 

My first task upon returning home is to take the dog for a long walk.  (Sometimes I stop at my daughter’s house – which is halfway between my house and my mother’s place – and give her dog some attention as well.)

By then, it’s time for lunch.  (If I didn’t hit the salad bar at the grocery store, I’ll make a sandwich.)

*     *     *     *     *

I usually watch TV while I eat lunch.  (When I say I watch TV, I mean I watch an episode of a cable-TV series on DVD – The Crown, Game of Thrones, Orange Is the New Black, The Affair, Big Little Lies, or whatever.)  If I’m feeling sleepy when the show is over, I’ll take a little nap on the sofa.  


Recently I’ve tried to spend an hour or so every afternoon doing some “Swedish death cleaning” – going through my clothes, books, and other possessions and deciding what I can sell, what I should give away, and what I should toss.

Most weekdays, I pick up my grandsons Jack and Hunter at day care and take them home.  After that, it’s time to make dinner, followed by a little reading and some more TV. 

*     *     *     *     *

So have you figured out the answer to the question, “What is retirement like?”

It’s obvious, isn’t it?  RETIREMENT IS LIKE BEING A HOUSEWIFE!


(Excuse me, but the buzzer on the clothes dryer just went off – I need to fold the laundry before it gets wrinkled.)

*     *     *     *     *

“Dreams of the Everyday Housewife” was the first single from Glen Campbell’s 1968 album, Wichita Lineman.  

It peaked at #32 on the Billboard “Hot 100,” but went all the way to #3 on the “Hot Country Songs” chart.


Click here to watch the final few minutes of a 1969 episode of Petticoat Junction titled “Ballad of the Everyday Housewife.”  In that episode, the Steve Elliott character (played by Mike Minor) sings today’s featured song to his TV wife, the former Betty Jo Bradley.  (Betty Jo was portrayed by Linda Kaye Henning – the daughter of Paul Henning, who produced not only Petticoat Junction but also The Beverly Hillbillies and Green Acres).

By the way, Minor had married Henning in real life just a few months before that episode aired.  (They got divorced five years later.)

Click here to hear Glen Campbell’s version of “Dreams of the Everyday Housewife.”

Click on the link below to buy the song from Amazon:

Monday, April 1, 2019

Porcupine Tree – "Baby Dream in Cellophane" (1995)


If you . . . wanted to
You'd find . . . inside my mind
Things so surreal

The previous 2 or 3 lines featured a Clara Engel song that was inspired by Leonora Carrington’s 1976 novel, The Hearing Trumpet.

Carrington wrote fiction and nonfiction, but is best known for her surrealist art.  Here’s one of her early works, a self-portrait she painted when she was not quite 21 years old:


*     *     *     *     *

Desmond Morris’s 2018 book, The Lives of the Surrealists, includes brief biographies of 30-odd surrealist artists – including Leonora Carrington.  (By the way, that’s the same Desmond Morris who wrote The Naked Ape – a book about human sexual behavior that just about everyone in my generation read avidly – in 1967.  Morris is not only an expert in animal behavior but also a surrealist artist who has completed some 2500 paintings.) 

Carrington lived perhaps the oddest life of those 30-odd surrealists – and that’s saying something.  Given the date of this post, you might think that I was yanking your crank about Carrington.  But everything I’ve written is true.

*     *     *     *     *

Leonora was the daughter of an English tycoon, and grew up in a mansion with servants, an Irish nanny, a French governess, and a religious tutor.  She did not get along with the nuns at her school, and was expelled twice for her refusal to follow the rules.  (One of the rules she refused to follow was writing with only one hand.  It seems she could write – and paint – with both hands, and the nuns at her school took her ambidexterity as proof that she was abnormal, even diseased.)       

“Green Tea” (1942) 
According to Morris, 

In one of her earliest acts of rebellion, when she was only fourteen, she pulled up her dress in front of a Catholic priest.  She was wearing no underclothes and she asked him “What do you think of that?” 

I don’t know what I would have said if I had been that priest.  (There’s probably no safe answer to that question.)

*     *     *     *     *

Carrington was eventually shipped off to a finishing school in Paris, but was expelled once more.  Nonetheless, her family had her presented at court and gave her a “coming out” ball at the Ritz in London in hopes of arranging a suitable marriage for her.  

But Leonora rebelled – she refused to be “sold to the highest bidder,” in her words – and became an art student instead.

When she was 2o, she met surrealist artist Max Ernst at a London dinner party held in his honor.  Carrington found Ernst irresistible, and vice versa – despite the fact that he was married, the two promptly ran off to Paris and shacked up together.

“Portrait of Max Ernst” (1939) 
The move to Paris didn’t cure Carrington of her exhibitionism.  From the Morris book:

At one party . . . she arrived wearing nothing but a white sheet that she later allowed to drop, leaving her stark naked.  She and Ernst were thrown out of the party.

(I’m not sure it was fair to give Ernst the old heave-ho – as far as we know, he kept his pants on.)

*     *     *     *     *

Carrington and Ernst were living in a French village when World War II broke out.  According to Morris, Leonora went off the deep end when the Germans interned Ernst in a French concentration camp:

She stopped eating, started drinking and began to suffer from hallucinations.  She sold their house to a local farmer for a bottle of brandy and friends drove her south to Madrid, where her erratic behavior became extreme.  One day, she was discovered outside the British Embassy, screaming that she wanted to kill Hitler.

Someone got word to Carrington’s parents, who had her committed to a Spanish lunatic asylum, where doctors used leather restraints to tie her down to her bed and treated her with chemical shock therapy, which induced convulsive spasms.

When the parents decided their daughter should be moved to a mental hospital in South Africa, they sent her old nanny to Spain (by submarine, no less) to escort Leonora there.  But Carrington gave her nanny the slip in Lisbon and made her way to the Mexican Embassy, where she begged the ambassador – an old friend – to get her the hell out of there.

“Portrait of the Late Mrs. Partridge” (1947) 
The only way the ambassador could accomplish that was to marry her – which he did.  The two sailed off to New York City, where Ernst was living.  (He had married Peggy Guggenheim, the wealthy art patron who had helped arrange his escape from the Nazis.)

Carrington’s behavior while she was in New York was decidedly odd.  On one occasion, when dining in a restaurant, when she covered her feet in mustard, and on another she took a shower fully clothed when visiting a friend’s house.  It was not clear whether her eccentricities were surrealist events or moments of madness.

That’s the great thing about being a surrealist artist – you can do any crazy thing that pops into your feverish little head, and tell everyone that it was just art.

*     *     *     *     *

In 1943, Carrington and her husband-of-convenience moved to Mexico.  they were amicably divorced a few years later, and she eventually married Emerico Weisz, a Hungarian photojournalist.  They remained married for over sixty years, but things didn’t always go smoothly between them:

Her husband . . . was something of a saint.  He stayed with her to the bitter end, despite the fact that he was the victim of her sometimes raging temper and, on one occasion at least, was physically attacked by her.  She took a number of lovers and left [her husband] several times, but always returned to him.

*     *     *     *     *

Leonora Carrington continued to create art almost until the end of her very long life.  (She died in 2011, when she was 94.)

“Warning Mother” (1973) 
Morris described her art in these words:

Her paintings, always skillfully crafted in a traditional manner, take the viewer into a fantastic private world full of monsters and arcane rituals.  Some are like demented fairy tales, others like elegant nightmares.

Carrington’s images came from her unconscious, and she believed that those who viewed her paintings should rely on their unconscious to understand them.  

“I don’t really think in terms of explanations,” she told one interviewer who asked her to explain what the animal figures in one of her painting symbolized.  “This is not an intellectual game.  It is a visual world.  Use your feelings,” she told another curious interviewer. 

*     *     *     *     *

Porcupine Tree – which has been called “the most important band you’ve never heard of” – was originally a joke . . . literally.

In 1987, English musician Tom Wilson and a school friend of his – who had grown up listening to Pink Floyd and other progressive rock groups – decided to create a fictional rock band, which they christened Porcupine Tree.

The two made up an elaborate backstory for their made-up legendary band, complete with several hours of music that had supposedly been recorded and released back in the seventies.

Wilson eventually decided some of the music he had created as part of the hoax wasn’t bad.  He sent out a few copies of a demo cassette titled Tarquin’s Seaweed Farm to a few music critics and fellow musicians.  

His next cassette-tape album was titled Love, Death & Mussolini.  Only ten copies were made.  (Wilson doesn’t have a copy.)

Porcupine Tree began to develop a cult following, and Wilson eventually hired some other musicians so the band could perform live.  Over the next couple of decades, Porcupine Tree released ten studio albums, several EPs, and a dozen or so live albums.  


“Baby Dream in Cellophane” was released on the group’s fifth studio album, Stupid Dream, in 1995. 

Click here to listen to today’s featured song, “Baby Dream in Cellophane.”

Click on the link below to buy the song from Amazon: